By Daniele Trotta
(RockedBuzz via Reuters) – Two suspected undocumented immigrants died of suffocation aboard a freight train and 10 others in need of medical care were taken to hospital on Friday by helicopter or ambulance in south Texas, police said.
Officials in Uvlade, Texas received an anonymous 911 emergency call alerting them that numerous immigrants were suffocating inside a train, Uvalde police said in a statement. At least 15 immigrants needed immediate medical attention, police said.
U.S. Border Patrol officials were notified and were able to stop the train just east of Knippa, Texas in Uvalde County, police said. Officials temporarily closed US Highway 90 to land helicopters.
Federal investigators were looking into the possibility of human trafficking, US Department of Homeland Security investigators said.
The tragedy occurred near the site of a more serious incident last year when 53 migrants died in the back of a tractor trailer amid sweltering heat during a smuggling attempt.
Dozens of migrants were loaded into the back of a truck found on the outskirts of San Antonio on June 27.
Two Americans were indicted in federal court in that case and could face the death penalty if convicted. Two Mexicans were charged with misdemeanors.
“We are heartbroken to learn of yet another tragic incident of migrants making the perilous journey,” Homeland Security Secretary Alejando Mayorkas said on Twitter, promising to work with local investigators to find those responsible.
“Smugglers are callous and are only concerned with making a profit,” Mayorkas said.
Uvalde police chief Daniel Rodriguez suspected that the migrants were dehydrated due to the heat of the train cars during the hot season, KSAT television reported.
“It is sad to see that so many undocumented immigrants have been found in these conditions and two of them have lost their lives. It is heartbreaking,” Rodriguez said quoting KSAT.
The Union Pacific Railroad would lead the investigation, Uvalde police said.
The Mexican consulate in Eagle Pass, Texas, said on Twitter that it was aware of the incident and was in contact with US officials to determine if any of the victims were Mexican.
Homeland Security has not yet determined the nationality of the victims or whether they include families or children, a department official familiar with the matter said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Knippa is located about 72 miles (115 km) west of San Antonio and about 120 miles (190 km) from the Mexican border.
It is near the town of Uvalde, the scene of a mass shooting at an elementary school in May last year that killed 19 schoolchildren and two teachers.
(Reporting by Daniel Trotta, Brad Brooks, Ted Hesson and Kristina Cooke; Editing by Leslie Adler, Stephen Coates and Michael Perry)