Uvalde police: Two dead among numerous people found ‘suffocating’ in train car

A 911 call alerted police that at least 15 ‘undocumented immigrants’ were trapped. Border Patrol agents stopped the train east of Knippa. At least 10 people were hospitalized, including five in San Antonio.

By Joey Palacios, Dan Katz, Fernando Ortiz Jr., Texas Public RadioMarch 25, 2023 8:31 am, ,

From Texas Public Radio:

Uvalde police said in a statement Friday event that at least 15 people were found “suffocating” in a train car near Knippa, just east of Uvalde, Texas.

The statement characterized the people as “undocumented immigrants.”

“Two of the immigrants were pronounced deceased,” the statement added.

The statement, posted on the police department’s Facebook page, explained that at around 3:50 p.m. local time, a 911 call was made to Uvalde Telecommunications Center “from an unknown third-party caller” who told authorities about the people in the train car.

Border Patrol agents were notified, and they stopped the train about three miles east of Knippa.

Screengrab / Google Maps

Uvalde police closed a segment of U.S. Highway 90, between Knippa and Sabinal, so medical helicopters could land and treat the injured. Five people were flown to area hospitals, and five others were flown to hospitals in the San Antonio area. Their conditions were not immediately known.

In an interview with TPR, Don McLaughlin, the mayor of Uvalde, reported similar information. He said he learned the train had sat on the tracks, in the afternoon sun, for about three hours.

He said, “911 got a call — don’t know if it was from a family member or one of the migrants who were locked in the shipping container.”

The mayor explained that his information came from the Uvalde Police Department and the Southwest Texas Regional Advisory Council, or STRAC, which medically serves 22 counties in the region. STRAC was the lead agency in the response effort.

He said the medical response was enormous. “There were more people than we had ambulances [currently] available in Uvalde. We called them in from everywhere — Kerrville, San Antonio, Hondo, and locally in Uvalde.”

Uvalde police said in its statement that the Union Pacific railroad was leading the investigation into what happened on the train.

ICE Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) said it was investigating the possibility of human smuggling but wouldn’t provide any more details.

The Texas Department of Public Safety did not immediately respond to TPR’s requests for comment.

The segment of Highway 90 between the border town of Del Rio and San Antonio has become a major human trafficking route.

McLaughlin said that law enforcement in the area have discovered migrants on trains, and they regularly encounter human smugglers in high speed vehicle chases through the area.

“We deal with this every day down here,” he said. “Not deaths every day but we’re dealing with immigrants every day. Seven days a week.”

Last June, 53 migrants were found dead in a tractor trailer in San Antonio.

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