There is some good news and some bad news out of San Antonio today. Law enforcement officers have located the deviants that perpetrated this human smuggling tragedy. But unfortunately, the death toll has risen to 51 as more details of the nationalities of those who died emerge.
51 migrants have lost their lives so far
The death toll had risen to at least 51, including 39 men and 12 women, by Tuesday, authorities said. Two young sisters originally from Guatemala, Carla and Griselda Carac Tambriz, were also among the victims.
Authorities have identified at least 27 Mexicans, seven Guatemalans and two Hondurans thus far, according to Mexico’s Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard and Consul of Mexico Ruben Minutti-Zanatta. The nationalities of the other victims have yet to be identified.
“Scum of the Earth”
“Scum of the Earth” – those are the only words I have to describe these villains. Homero Zamorano, 45, was taken into custody in a nearby field after he allegedly abandoned the 18-wheeler on the side road in southwest San Antonio Monday.
“He was very high on meth when he was arrested nearby and had to be taken to the hospital,” a law enforcement official told the San Antonio Express News. The driver is also expected to be charged with multiple crimes, but remained in the hospital as of Tuesday night, a Mexican official told The New York Post.
Juan Claudio D’Luna-Mendez and Juan Francisco D’Luna-Bilbao were located by police after tracing the plates on the truck and trailer. That seems to be the only legitimate thing about that tractor-trailer.
They were arrested after law enforcement placed the house listed as the address for the truck under surveillance. D’Luna-Bilbao and D’Luna-Mendez were both charged with possessing firearms while residing in the U.S. illegally, according to the criminal complaints. It is not immediately clear what alleged involvement those two men had in the smuggling tragedy or if they will face additional charges.
Stolen identity affects another trucking firm
Two weeks ago, I did an interview with officials of a company that suffered from stolen corporate identity. It seems a form of that is now involved in the San Antonio situation. The tractor-trailer used in the heinous tragedy was “cloned” to look like a truck of a company that traverses the U.S.-Mexico border daily. It even used the same decal designs and registration numbers of the victim company.
“Our reefer [refrigerated trailer] is sitting right in the yard. That one in San Antonio is not our trailer.” – Felipe Betancourt Jr., owner of Betancourt Trucking
Authorities said the truck crossed the border in Laredo, 150 miles south of San Antonio. The truck then passed through a border checkpoint on Interstate 35, according to a statement by U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar of Texas. It is unclear whether the migrants were in the truck when it apparently cleared the checkpoint.
San Antonio area priests offering support and prayer to victims
Pope Francis on Tuesday called for people to pray for those who died in the truck, as well as the 23 migrants who died this past weekend trying to get from Morocco to the Spanish enclave of Melilla.
“Let us pray together for these brothers and sisters who died following their hope of a better life; and for ourselves, may the Lord might open our hearts so these misfortunes never happen again,” – Pope Francis
Local priests visited the survivors in San Antonio, offering prayers and support for them. Gustavo Garcia-Siller, the archbishop of San Antonio, paid a visit to local hospitals.
“At this point, we are trying to hold on to any little sign of hope regarding any of them. I only was with one that was able to speak. She was the youngest … 16 years old. The other ones are sedated. Her name was Sebastiana. And I said, ‘Where are you from? Guatemala?’ She smiled.“There was another girl. She was 20, and they told me that she hadn’t opened her eyes at all. “Before I left, she opened her eyes. She tried to speak, but she couldn’t.” – Gustavo Garcia-Siller, the archbishop of San Antonio in an interview with “The New York Post”
Back The Truck Up and FreightWaves will continue to monitor developments surrounding this tragedy.