On Monday, June 27, the driver of the truck that appeared in San Antonio with dozens of dead migrants did not have everything under control. One of those arrested told the Texas Western District Court that Homero Zamorano had not realized that the air conditioning in the rear cabin of the vehicle had stopped working at a time when Texas registers temperatures above 90 degrees Fahrenheit.
“That was the reason people died,” Christian Martínez, 28, who wrote text messages to Zamorano in the hours before the tragedy, told the Court.
According to court documents, at 12:17 pm that day, Martínez sent him a photo with the cargo manifest of the unit, that is, with what he was carrying in the back cellar. Two minutes later, he wrote to her: “I am going to the same place.” At 12:44 he sent her GPS coordinates that marked a point in Laredo, Texas.
Among the victims, the brothers Alejandro and Fernando Caballero had notified their mother on Saturday, two days before the tragedy, that they had just crossed the Rio Grande through Roma, in Texas, and that from there they would be transferred by coyotes to a house in Laredo. They told him that on Monday they should be arriving at another destination, from which they would depart to Houston. More never heard of them until the news of a truck with more than 40 dead migrants was known in the media.
Two young Guatemalans, among the victims of the tragedy in San Antonio: their relatives are dismayed
Martínez continued to write to Zamorano, 45, that Monday, June 27. The next message was at 1:40 pm: “Way bro,” he wrote, in what authorities translated as “where are you, brother?”
Right after that message, investigations have turned up new details. A video released on Wednesday by the President of Mexico, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, shows recordings of the moment in which Zamorano, wearing a black and gray striped shirt and a black cap, crossed one of the Border Patrol checkpoints in Encinal, Texas. It was 2:50 p.m. on Monday, according to the footage.
Texas Rep. Henry Cuellar said Border Patrol footage showed the truck heading south Monday on I-35 toward the border city of Laredo, where it likely — he said — picked up the migrants. , that they were in a “safe house”. This is still under investigation.
After that, the representative told the newspaper Washington Post, the 18-wheeler passed through a Border Patrol checkpoint, now headed north, but was not inspected by agents. The representative assured that the vehicle was cloned —as explained by the owner of the company whose name was used— to make it look like the ones that normally circulate in the area. “These criminal organizations have cloned FedEx, UPS and even Border Patrol trucks,” he explained.
At that time, 2:50 p.m., Zamorano was still not responding to text messages, the court document shows. Martinez wrote the driver three text messages again at 3:18 p.m. asking him to call him. The last one occurred at 6:17 pm: “Where are you?”. There was no answer.
A truck with 48 dead
At that time, says a press release from the United States Department of Justice, on the desolate and narrow Quintana Road, which runs parallel to Interstate 35, there was already a crime scene that showed one of the deadliest tragedies involving migrants. in the zone. They had reached her after a 911 call from a person who worked in the area.
“At the scene, officers from the San Antonio Police Department discovered many people, some still inside the box of the trailer, some on the ground and near bushes, many of them dead and some incapacitated,” describe. And the driver was found hiding in a bush while he tried to escape, dressed in the same clothes he wore in the Border Patrol video in Encinal. He was arrested.
That day they confirmed that 48 people were dead at the scene: 22 Mexicans, seven Guatemalans, two Hondurans and another 17 whose nationality they could not determine. due to lack of documentation. Shortly after they confirmed that they were undocumented: they did it through the recognition of their fingerprints with a mobile scanner.
16 more people were taken to hospitals, five more died in the following hours and the death toll – due to suffocation caused by heat stroke and dehydration – rose to 53.
A tragedy that is repeated despite the arrests
Four people are arrested. Among them, Zamorano, who faces charges for human trafficking who died and can carry life imprisonment or death sentence. It was also known that at the time of his arrest he was under the influence of methamphetamine.
Christian Martínez was also arrested a day later and is accused of conspiring to transport undocumented migrants who died and may face sentences similar to those of the driver.
Other detainees were Juan Claudio D’Luna-Mendez, 23, and Juan Francisco D’Luna-Bilboa, 48. Both Mexicans. According to court documents in this case, records from the truck in which the migrants died led to a residence in San Antonio. The Police of that city watched the house and noticed that these two people left in different trucks. They stopped them on the way and discovered that the second had a gun in the center console of the car. With a search warrant, the house was searched and more firearms were found. Both individuals were charged with possessing weapons while in the country without documentation. They could face up to 10 years in prison.
The relatives of the victims on this occasion said that poverty in their countries leads the youngest to migrate in search of more opportunities in the United States. They pay up to $9,000 for these trips. Francisco López Hernández, cousin of one of the survivors, told the AP agency how easy it is to find a coyote to make the trip for them. He said that, until now, acquaintances of his had crossed without him being able to remember a similar tragedy on June 27, 2022 in San Antonio.