Two people found dead in a railroad car in south Texas were
Honduran men, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security said in a statement
Saturday, indicating it was investigating the case as possible human smuggling.
“We will continue to address the serious public safety
threat posed by human smuggling organizations and their reckless disregard for
the health and safety of those smuggled,” department spokesperson Nina Pruneda
said in the statement.
Pruneda declined to comment beyond the statement, which said
the investigation is ongoing but did not say whether any of the migrants were
The two dead were among 17 people — 15 men and two women —
found Friday in what Union Pacific railroad said were two rail cars near
Knippa, Texas, about 70 miles (113 kilometers) west of San Antonio and less
than 100 miles (161 kilometers) from the U.S. border with Mexico, according to
Union Pacific said in a statement Saturday that it is working
with authorities to determine what happened and how the migrants boarded the
train. The statement said the company is “deeply saddened” by the loss of life.
“Safety is our focus, and we have strict policies in place
to prevent unauthorized access of our trains,” the statement from company
spokesperson Robynn Tysver said.
Four of the survivors found in the cars were taken to
hospitals, Pruneda said. Their nationalities and conditions were not released.
University Health in San Antonio tweeted that two male
survivors were in critical condition Saturday.
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Spokesperson Leigh Strope from Christus Health in San Antonio
said one survivor was hospitalized there in undisclosed condition.
Officials at other hospitals in the area either had no
patients from the train or did not respond to messages seeking comment
Uvalde police Chief Daniel Rodriguez had said dispatchers
received a 911 call about 3:50 p.m. Friday from an unknown person seeking help
for “numerous undocumented immigrants ‘suffocating’ inside of a train car.”
Rodriguez told local media it was believed the call came
from inside one of the two rail cars where the migrants were found, a shipping
container where the two dead men were found and a freight car.
A suspected cause of the deaths has not been released. Highs
in the area neared 90 F (32 C), and shipping containers often get much hotter
than the surrounding temperature.
Last summer, more than 50 migrants died after dozens of
people were found in the back of a sweltering tractor-trailer that had been
abandoned on the outskirts of San Antonio. The tragedy was the nation’s
deadliest smuggling episode on America’s southern border, which led to
officials vowing to step up policing efforts.
Migrants routinely travel through Uvalde, leading to
high-speed vehicle pursuits that put schools in the area on lockdown. After the
Robb Elementary School massacre in Uvalde last May, when a gunman killed 19
children and two teachers, Texas lawmakers concluded in a report that the
frequency of the lockdowns may have led to a “diminished sense of vigilance”
On the other side of Texas, a 17-year-old was charged Friday
with kidnapping two migrants whose rescue this week from a Houston hotel by FBI
agents ended in gunfire that killed another suspect.
The migrants were stopped on a highway northwest of Houston
on Saturday and were forced into another vehicle by the kidnappers, according
to a prosecutor. Officials have said little about what happened between then
and Thursday morning, when the FBI says its agents rescued two migrants
following the shooting in north Houston.