Company says truck with dozens of dead people inside was “cloned,” according to report
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The owners of a South Texas trucking company said that a semitruck found Monday night in San Antonio with a trailer containing the bodies of dozens of immigrants was “cloned,” the San Antonio Express-News reported Tuesday.
The truck in San Antonio had the same color and identifying numbers from the federal Department of Transportation and the Texas DOT as a Betancourt Trucking and Harvesting truck, the Alamo-based trucking company’s owners said. But the cloned truck does not bear the company’s logo, as the business’ other trucks do.
One of the owners said the company’s truck has not been to San Antonio recently and has been hauling grain from Harlingen to Progreso.
“Our [refrigerated trailer] is sitting right in the yard,” Felipe Betancourt Jr. told the Express-News. “That one in San Antonio is not our trailer.”
At least 50 people died after being trapped in the sweltering rig. Forty-six were declared dead at the scene, and Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard said Tuesday that four of the 16 migrants found alive in the trailer died after being taken to hospitals, according to the Express-News.
The immigrants are believed to be from Mexico, Honduras and Guatemala.
Officials with Homeland Security Investigations have taken over the investigation. San Antonio police said three people were taken into custody on Monday, but they did not identify the individuals and said their connection to the truck or the migrants was unclear.
President Joe Biden called the incident "horrifying and heartbreaking" on Tuesday and blamed "smugglers or human traffickers who have no regard for the lives they endanger and exploit to make a profit.
"This incident underscores the need to go after the multi-billion dollar criminal smuggling industry preying on migrants and leading to far too many innocent deaths," Biden said in a written statement. He also highlighted what he called "a first-of-its kind anti-smuggling campaign with our regional partners" that he announced earlier this month. Biden said the effort has resulted in more than 2,400 arrests in its first three months "and that work will only intensify in the months ahead."
Biden decried "political grandstanding around tragedy" a day after Texas Gov. Greg Abbott blamed the deaths on what he called the president's "deadly open border policies.”
At his daily press conference, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador expressed condolences to the families of those who died and said his government will be investigating the deaths of 22 Mexican citizens and helping their families return their bodies home.
“This is bitter proof that we must continue to insist on supporting people so that they do not have to leave their villages to look for a life on the other side of the border,” López Obrador said.
In a tweet, Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei called for tougher criminal penalties for human smugglers: “It is inexcusable that innocent lives continue to be lost to migrant smuggling! My condolences to the families of the deceased in Texas.”
Pope Francis called for prayers for the victims in San Antonio — as well as the 18 migrants who died Friday while trying to enter Spain from Morocco.
"Let us #PrayTogether 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," the pope tweeted Tuesday.
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This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at https://www.texastribune.org/2022/06/28/san-antonio-truck-dead-migrants/.
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