Chilling new details emerged Tuesday in the Texas border horror that left at least 50 migrants dead in a truck — including how bodies were allegedly sprinkled with steak seasoning to mask their odor.
A law-enforcement official told the Texas Tribune that many of the estimated 100 people jammed into the tractor-trailer in San Antonio appeared to have been covered in spices to cover up the odor during the human-smuggling tragedy.
A cry for help coming from the 18-wheeler found abandoned on the southern outskirts of town Monday evening led to the discovery of “stacks of bodies’’ inside the vehicle, which had apparently been made to look like a properly registered truck in an effort to evade detection.
The rig was “cloned,” said the owner of a local Alamo-based trucking company to the San Antonio Express-News — painted to match one of his own, right down to copying his legal vehicle’s Department of Transportation registration number.
“Our reefer [refrigerated trailer] is sitting right in the yard,” Felipe Betancourt Jr., who owns Betancourt Trucking with his father, told the paper. “That one in San Antonio is not our trailer.”
While the truck in San Antonio was made to look like a refrigerated truck, “There was no visible working AC unit on that rig,” said San Antonio Fire Chief Charles Hood.
Temperatures in San Antonio reached a high of 103 degrees Monday amid an ongoing heat wave, and the 50 dead are believed to have succumbed to the heat.
The paper also reported that bodies had been found for blocks around the truck’s location, suggesting that some of the tragic migrants had tried to make their escape while the vehicle was still moving.
Hood said the 16 survivors found so far were suffering heat stroke and exhaustion.
The hospitalized survivors — including four children — were hot to the touch and dehydrated, according to first responders.
A rep with Baptist Health System said Tuesday that three patients taken to San Antonio’s Baptist Medical Center were later pronounced dead, and another patient died at an area hospital, KSAT reported.
Two patients remained critical at Baptist Medical, the New York Times reported.
An adolescent boy was reportedly critical at University Hospital, while a 23-year-old woman was in serious condition there, the Times said.
There also were two people in critical condition — a 23-year-old woman and a 32-year-old man — at Texas Vista Medical Center, the outlet said.
Two other men and a woman were listed in critical but stable condition at Methodist Metropolitan hospital.
Additional reporting by Desheania Andrews