Dead migrants: Driver didn’t know air conditioning had turned off, says complaint

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The alleged conspirator, Christian Martinez, contacted by cell phone about the apparent smuggling scheme with the truck’s driver, Homero Zamorano Jr., the Justice Department said.

The men were exchanging photos, including one of a “truck load manifest,” and discussing whether the driver should go to the “same location,” the complaint states, adding that Martinez sent GPS coordinates to a location in Laredo, Texas. .

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Martinez “started a conversation about the deaths of several individuals inside a tractor trailer” and admitted to being involved, according to the complaint, citing information shared by a confidential informant in communication with Martinez, who was already the subject of an investigation by Homeland Security Investigations. .

Martinez said the truck driver was unaware that the air conditioning unit had stopped working, the informant told investigators, the complaint states.

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The truck’s discovery came as US federal officials launched what they described as an “unprecedented” operation to disrupt people-smuggling networks amid an influx of migrants across the US-Mexico border.

More than a dozen were rescued alive from inside the vehicle — with many hospitalized for heat-related illnesses — and 48 people were initially found dead; five have since died.

Among the survivors, two were in critical condition on Friday, with another in serious condition and another in good condition, officials at San Antonio University Hospital and Metropolitan Methodist Hospital said.

Six more migrants from the truck were undergoing treatment Tuesday at Baptist Medical Center in San Antonio and at CHRISTUS Health’s San Antonio Children’s Hospital and Santa Rosa Hospital.

Martinez, 28, and Zamorano, 45, were arrested and charged with crimes that carry the death penalty as a potential punishment. THE CNN reached out to Martinez’s attorney for comment, while Zamorano’s attorney declined to comment. Two others were also arrested and charged in the case.

The refrigerated tractor-trailer had no visible air conditioning unit and there was no sign of water inside, the San Antonio fire chief said, adding that it was not immediately clear how long the people inside the truck had been dead. The high temperatures on Monday in the San Antonio area ranged from 90 to 100 (about 32º to 37º C).

“None of these people made it out of the truck,” said Fire Chief Charles Hood. “So they were still there, waiting for help, when we arrived… which means being too weak — weakened state — to actually go out and help yourself.”

The case is “the worst human smuggling event in the United States,” said Craig Larrabee, special agent in charge of San Antonio Homeland Security Investigations.

“In the past, smuggling organizations were familiar,” Larrabee told CNN. “Now they are organized and linked to the cartels. So you have a criminal organization that doesn’t care about the safety of migrants. They are treated like commodities, not people.”

Source: CNN Brasil

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