On June 27, 53 illegal migrants were found dead in a sweltering hot tractor-trailer abandoned near Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio in what has been called the deadliest human smuggling incident ever reported in the United States.
Now, two Texas men responsible for the smuggling operation have been indicted by federal grand juries.
If convicted, the men could face the death penalty on the most serious charges.
According to federal court documents, Homero Zamorano Jr. and Christian Martinez claim they “did not know the air conditioning was broken” before leaving the illegal migrants in the Texas heat.
Officials found the rear door of the truck ajar with bodies stacked inside, while some of the survivors laid outside in the brush.
Fire officials at the scene said the patients were hot to the touch and suffering from heat stroke and exhaustion, which is how most of the victims died. No sign of water or a working air conditioner was found inside the truck.
Zamorano, the alleged driver, was found hiding in the brush near the truck, pretending to be a survivor. He was reportedly “very high on meth” at the time and was taken to a nearby hospital. Investigators then searched Zamorano’s phone and found texts to Martinez asking where he was around the time authorities spotted the abandoned truck.
This isn’t the first time undocumented migrants have been found abandoned in a trailer. In 2003, 19 illegal migrants were found dead in a trailer in Victoria, Texas. In 2017, 39 migrants were found in a hot trailer, where 10 had died.
Zamorano and Martinez face the following charges:
- Conspiracy to transport illegal aliens resulting in death.
- Transportation of illegal aliens resulting in death.
- Conspiracy to transport aliens resulting in serious bodily injury and placing lives in jeopardy.
- Transportation of illegal aliens resulting in serious bodily injury and placing lives in jeopardy.