San Antonio trailer deaths - latest: Driver Homero Zamorano in court as photos show migrant truck at border

·31 min read

Four people, including alleged truck driver Homero Zamorano Jr, have been charged in connection to the San Antonio migrant deaths, the Justice Department announced on Wednesday.

The 45-year-old is charged with one count of alien smuggling resulting in death. He is from Brownsville but based in Pasadena, Texas, according to officials. He could face up to life in prison or the death penalty.

Three others were charged as well, including Christian Martinez, who allegedly discussed the smuggling plan in a call with Mr Zamorano, and Mexican nationals Juan Claudio and Juan Francisco D’Luna Mendez, who were found because their address was used to register the tractor-trailer that smuggled the migrants.

At least 53 people were discovered dead, “stacked” inside the truck’s tractor-trailer near San Antonio, Texas, in what authorities believe may be the deadliest human-trafficking incident in modern US history.

The alleged driver, Mr Zamorano, was high on meth when he was arrested and had a past history of drug use and arrests, according to family members.

Key points

  • Death toll rises to 53 after San Antonio trailer incident

  • Four people charged in San Antonio smuggling operation

  • Photo shows smiling Zamorano crossing border driving trailer packed with migrants

  • Biden administration under fire from all sides over border policy

  • ‘Stacks of bodies’ found in tractor-trailer with no sign of water

Four migrants killed in another crash

06:45 , Shweta Sharma

A jeet carrying a group of migrants crashed into a trailer on Thursday after it escaped a US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) checkpoint in Encinal, Texas on Thursday.

Four people were killed and three are hospitalised, a crash that came after the deadliest human smuggling incident on record in the United States left 53 migrants dead in an abandoned trailer truck.

The Mexican consulate in the Texan border city of Laredo said two Mexican men, one Guatemalan and another unidentified person died in Thursday’s crash.

The driver was a US citizen and was hospitalised with two other people believed to be from Guatemala.

More details emerge about Homer Zamorano’s troubled past

06:00 , Josh Marcus

Homero Zamorano, the man charged with driving the abandoned Texas semi-truck in which 53 migrants died, was high on methamphetamine when he was arrested, according to US Representative Henry Cuellar, whose district includes San Antonio.

The Texas Democrat told Reuters he was briefed on the information by Customs and Border Patrol, who he said added that the migrants were likely picked in the truck at a US-based “stash house” before being abandoned in San Antonio on Monday evening.

That would match with accounts from Mr Zamorano’s family, who say he struggled with drug use and resorted to criminality to fund his habit.

“His life is really separate from ours,” Zamarano’s brother-in-law told The Texas Tribune. “I have no idea how he got involved in that. He would get lost for years and would come around occasionally. He basically raised himself.”

Read the full story.

Driver of doomed San Antonio migrant truck was high on meth: Texas congressman

Migrant smuggler didn’t realise trailer’s AC had stopped working, complaint says

05:24 , Shweta Sharma

One of the accused in the deadliest smuggling tragedy in US history has told a government informant that the driver did not know that the AC unit of the packed trailer had stopped working, a filing Texas federal court said.

Christian Martinez, 28, who has been charged with conspiracy to transport undocumented migrants leading to death, sent the messages to the driver of the vehicle on Monday — about six hour before the tragedy — purporting to show a truck manifest.

The truck driver was previously identified as Homero Zamorano Jr, 45, but his name was redacted in the complaint.

Mr Martinez also texted GPS coordinates to an address in Laredo to the driver half an hour later and texted the initials for “where you at?”.

The urgency in the tone of messages grew as he did not receive any message from the driver. “Call me, bro,” he texted at 3:18 pm.

He sent the last message around 6.15pm when the authorities had already found Mr Zamorano hiding in the bushes while they pulled bodies.

The driver of high on methamphetamines, two officials later said.

The other tragedy in Texas

05:00 , Josh Marcus

As San Antonio grappled with scores of dead migrants, residents of the Texas border town of Uvalde are still struggling for closure after the historic mass school shooting there in May, which killed 21 people.

Photographer Billy Calzada of the San Antonio Express News captured the frustration of parents and community members at a meeting on Thursday as they sought answers from local officials about police failings during the attack.

Guatemala, Mexico families talk about sons after tragedy

04:51 , Shweta Sharma

Families of some of the youngest migrants mourned the deaths of their young sons who were setting off to the US with dreams of making big and helping the family there before their life came to a tragic end before their destination.

The family of Wilmer Tulul, 14, and Melvin Guachiac, 13, the two cousins in Nahuala, Guatemala, said that they left home with dreams in their eyes to learn English and reunite with family.

“My grandson said he had a dream,” Wilmer’s grandmother Pascuala Sipac said, speaking in Quiche through a translator. “He made the journey but (the dream) never arrived.”

The two died along with 53 people in the deadliest US human smuggling tragedy on record.

The family members confirmed their deaths after seeing their photos sent from San Antonio morgue

The family of sons Jair, 19, and Yovani, 16, in Atexquilapan in eastern Mexico, are still waiting for closure with some information about their sons. Their parents are convinced that they were on the truck after they last talked to them on Monday morning.

“It’s very difficult for me to think about everything they went through,” said Yolanda Olivares. “It’s consuming me from the inside not knowing about them.”

Reuters

Mexican Consul General visits San Antonio memorial

04:16 , Josh Marcus

Rubén Minutti, the Consul General of Mexico, visited San Antonio on Thursday to pay his respects to the more than 50 migrants who died while being smuggled into the US in a crammed tractor-trailer.

A number of Mexicans were among the 53 dead.

Mr Minutti laid a wreath at the semi-rural site where the truck full of people was abandoned.

“Consular attention to the relatives of the victims has been offered from the first instants and will continue in each moment,” according to a statement from the Mexican Secretary of Exterior Relations office.

Photos show growing memorial at site of San Antonio trailer smuggling tragedy

03:30 , Josh Marcus

An impromptu memorial has sprung up at the semi-rural location outside of San Antonio where more than 50 migrants were killed while being smuggled into the US in a tractor-trailer.

The displays included flowers, flags, and protest signs.

Artist Roberto Marquez is also painting a mural at the site.

Father describes final conversation with son who died in trailer: video

02:45 , Josh Marcus

A father named Manuel told KHOU about how he tried to stop his son from migrating to the US, but that the 13-year-old, Wilmer, would not be deterred.

Here’s what he said.

How are Republicans responding to the San Antonio migrant tragedy? By blaming Biden.

02:00 , Josh Marcus

Not long after the discovery of the truck filled with dead migrants was made in Texas, Republicans including Texas governor Greg Abbott pounced and blamed Joe Biden’s border policies for what happened.

Here’s video of Mr Abbott’s response.

And here’s what else the GOP is saying about what happened in San Antonio.

Supreme Court holds Biden can end Trump’s ‘Remain in Mexico’ policy

01:30 , Josh Marcus

The Supreme Court held on Thursday that President Biden can end Donald Trump’s so-called “Remain in Mexico” immigration policy, which sent tens of thousands of asylum seekers to wait on the Mexico side of the border as their claim processed.

The policy helped push would-be migrants towards unauthorised methods of entry.

The Biden administration tried to end the programme on its first day in office, but the states of Texas and Missouri challenged the decision.

More details in our story.

Supreme Court: Biden properly ended Trump-era asylum policy

READ: Affidavit details arrest of Homero Zamorano

01:00 , Josh Marcus

Homero Zamorano, the alleged driver of the truck found full of dead migrants in San Antonio, made his first court appearance on Thursday.

The US Attorney’s Office has provided the 45-year-old’s charging documents to The Independent.

Here’s the most relevant section, where a Homeland Security Investigations agent describes arresting Mr Zamorano, who could face a death sentence or life in prison if convicted.

An affidavit from a Homeland Security Investigations division agent detailing the arrest of Homero Zamorano, the alleged driver of a semi-truck in which 53 smuggled migrants died of heat-related injuries. (US Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Texas)
An affidavit from a Homeland Security Investigations division agent detailing the arrest of Homero Zamorano, the alleged driver of a semi-truck in which 53 smuggled migrants died of heat-related injuries. (US Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Texas)

What has Joe Biden said about the San Antonio migrant deaths? Read his statement.

00:30 , Josh Marcus

The president, along with many leaders, responded in horror to the deaths of more than 50 migrants in a tractor-trailer in San Antonio.

Here’s what he said.

San Antonio police chief previously tangled with ICE over jurisdiction in smuggling investigations

00:00 , Josh Marcus

After more than 60 migrants were discovered in the back of a truck trailer in San Antonio on Monday, city officials swiftly handed the case over to the federal Department of Homeland Security’s invistigative division, the same agency that oversees Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

That differs from a similar 2017 incident, during which current San Antonio Police Chief insisted, “We are not involving ICE in this investigation.”

In that case, 12 suspected migrants were found in a tractor-trailer and interviewed by SAPD before being released.

Body camera footage shows immigration advocates telling the suspected migrants in Spanish that ICE is not coming to the scene, and to not be afraid about cooperating with the SAPD to catch the driver of the semi-truck.

The decision not to involve ICE led the Texas Attorney General’s office to sue the San Antonio police chief, a case which was settled for $300,000 this year, KSAT reports.

Truck driver Homero Zamorano appears in court as documents suggest broken A/C caused migrant deaths

23:30 , Josh Marcus

Homero Zamorano, who is accused of driving a semi-truck in which 53 smuggled migrants died from heat-related injuries, made his first appearance in federal court on Thursday.

The 45-year-old from Brownsville, Texas, is charged with charged smuggling undocumented migrants resulting in death. He could face a lifetime prison sentence or the death penalty if convicted.

At the hearing, the US Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Texas, which is prosecuting the case, advised the alleged smuggler of the charges against him. It is unclear whether he has legal representation.

The court appearance comes as new information trickles out about what lead to the horrific deaths, and the individuals responsible.

A failed air condition unit in the tractor-trailer carrying the group of migrants allegedly caused the migrants to die, according to sealed court documents charging Christian Martinez, one of Mr Zamorano’s alleged conspirators, KHOU reports.

You can find more details in my full story here.

Homero Zamorano appears in court as documents suggest broken AC caused migrant deaths

Photos show alleged truck smuggling conspirator Christian Martinez

23:05 , Josh Marcus

Newly released booking photos from the Anderson County Sheriff’s Office show Christian Martinez, one of four people who have been arrested in connection to the San Antonio migrant smuggling deaths.

Mr Martinez 28, was arrested on Tuesday, and officials say phone records indicate he was in contact with alleged driver Mr Zamorano about the smuggling scheme.

A mugshot of Christian Martinez. (Anderson County Sheriff’s Office)
A mugshot of Christian Martinez. (Anderson County Sheriff’s Office)

Homero Zamorano was on meth when arrested, Texas congressman says

22:46 , Josh Marcus

Homero Zamorano, the man charged with driving the truck in which 53 migrants died, was high on methamphetamine when he was arrested, according to US Representative Henry Cuellar, whose district includes San Antonio.

The Texas Democrat told Reuters he was briefed on the information by Customs and Border Patrol, who he said added that the migrants were likely picked in the truck up at a US-based “stash house” before being abandoned in San Antonio.

That would match with accounts from Mr Zamorano’s family, who say he struggled with drug use and resorted to criminality to fund his habit.

Driver of doomed San Antonio migrant truck struggled with drug use, family say

Failed AC unit identified as cause of migrant deaths: court documents

22:20 , Josh Marcus

Charging documents for the four individuals tied to Monday’s San Antonio smuggling disaster are revealing new details about what led to the deaths of 53 migrants seeking to enter the US.

A failed air condition unit in the tractor-trailer carrying the group caused them to die, according to sealed court documents charging Christian Martinez, one of the conspirators, KHOU reports.

Mr Martinez, who has been charged with conspiracy to transport undocumented migrants leading to death, was allegedly in contact with suspected driver Homero Zamorano.

First responders who discovered the truck said the more than 60 migrants inside were hot to the touch, and that there didn’t appear to be any A/C system working in the trailer. Survivors inside were too weak to exit the trailer on their own two feet.

“They were still in there, awaiting help, when we arrived ... meaning just being too weak -- weakened state -- to actually get out and help themselves,” San Antonio fire chief Charles Hood said on Monday.

How heat and humidity are a perilous mix in immigrant deaths

21:55 , Josh Marcus

The combination of heat and humidity would have quickly created life-threatening conditions inside the packed, un-airconditioned tractor-trailer where dozens of immigrants were found dead, an expert said.

Although it’s unclear how long the people had been inside the trailer, it likely would only take a hour or less for temperatures to climb as high as 125 degrees (51 Celsius) or hotter, said Jennifer Vanos, an assistant professor in climate and health at Arizona State University who has studied child deaths in cars.

The tractor-trailer likely would have been hot – perhaps 105-110 degrees – when people got in because the outdoor heat and humidity already were high, Ms Vanos said.

Once inside, their bodies would have created even more heat and humidity, and because there was no air flow, their sweat could not evaporate to cool their bodies and they would dehydrate quickly. The immigrants did not have water.

“All those things together are going to drive a quicker heat death,” Ms Vanos said.

EXPLAINER: Heat, humidity a perilous mix in immigrant deaths

Driver of doomed San Antonio truck smuggling migrants struggled with drug use, family say

21:30 , Josh Marcus

Family members say Homero Zamorano, who is accused of driving a semi-truck in which 53 migrants died in a smuggling accident on Monday in Texas, long struggled with drug use and had past arrests.

“His life is really separate from ours,” Zamarano’s brother-in-law told The Texas Tribune. “I have no idea how he got involved in that. He would get lost for years and would come around occasionally. He basically raised himself.”

Mr Zamorano, 45, was arrested on Wednesday and charged with undocumented migrant smuggling resulting in death. He will appear in federal court on Thursday afternoon, and could face life in prison or the death penalty.

According to prosecutors, the 45-year-old from Brownsville, Texas, matches surveillance images of the driver of the abandoned trailer filled with migrants in San Antonio, which passed through a Border Patrol checkpoint in Laredo on Monday without being inspected.

Driver of doomed San Antonio migrant truck struggled with drug use, family say

Accused driver of deadly trailer makes first court appearance

21:11 , Josh Marcus

Homero Zamorano, who is accused of driving the semi-truck in which 53 migrants died, made his first court appearance today in a federal courtroom in San Antonio.

The 45-year-old is charged with migrant smuggling resulting in death, and could face life in prison or a death sentence.

Family members describe arrested driver as ‘in and out’ of their lives

20:33 , Johanna Chisholm

The sister of Homero Zamorano Jr, 45, who was arrested Wednesday and charged with involvement in alien smuggling resulting in death, says that her brother has been in and out of her life because of his struggles with drug abuse.

Tomasita Medina told the Los Angeles Times that her brother, the eldest of three siblings who were all raised in Brownsville, Texas, moved around a lot, going between East Texas, South Florida before he finally made the Houston area his home in recent years.

While living there, he reportedly worked as a handyman, a job he was able to hold down while his sister said he abused drugs and got caught up in the law.

“He’s always had an issue, a problem with drugs,” she told the Times. “He’s always in and out of our lives because of that.”

Texas police chasing smugglers in deadly car accidents has been an ongoing issue

19:22 , Johanna Chisholm

In 2019, police in Texas chased a car carrying a dozen smugglers around southern Texas in the town of Robstown, about 20 miles west of Corpus Christi. The chase resulted in a deadly car crash, that killed six men after the driver of the SUV seemed to lose control and crash into a ditch next to a dirt road in a field.

In that deadly accident, Gov Greg Abbott offered no statement on the men’s deaths, all of whom came up from either Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador or Mexico, the New York Times reported at the time. All of them were young men, in their early 20s or late teens.

At the time, the Times reported on how vehicle chases or single-car accidents involving smuggled migrants was steadily on the rise, noting how in South Texas alone, more than 40 undocumented men, women and children had been killed between 2012 and 2019.

A new theory about what caused 53 migrants to die inside San Antonio truck emerges

00:05 , Josh Marcus

Homero Zamorano, who is accused of driving a semi-truck in which 53 smuggled migrants died from heat-related injuries, made his first appearance in federal court on Thursday.

The 45-year-old from Brownsville, Texas, is charged with charged smuggling undocumented migrants resulting in death. He could face a lifetime prison sentence or the death penalty if convicted.

A failed air condition unit in the tractor-trailer carrying the group of migrants allegedly caused the migrants to die, according to sealed court documents charging Christian Martinez, one of Mr Zamorano’s alleged conspirators, KHOU reports.

More details below.

Homero Zamorano appears in court as documents suggest broken AC caused migrant deaths

Four dead and three injured after alleged migrant smuggler crashed into truck in Texas

18:36 , Johanna Chisholm

Four people were killed and three others are in critical condition following a car crash that involved an individual allegedly smuggling migrants in Texas.

Texan law enforcement authorities were reportedly chasing a vehicle they suspected was carrying migrants. The vehicle attempted to evade law enforcement and ran into a semi-truck.

“The driver suspected of human smuggling evaded law enforcement and crashed into a commercial vehicle,” the Texas DPS tweeted.

The vehicle the alleged human smuggler was driving appears to be a white Jeep.

My colleague Graig Graziosi has more in this developing news story:

Four dead and three injured after alleged migrant smuggler crashed in Texas

Texas funeral home owner volunteers to help deceased migrants reunite with families

17:42 , Johanna Chisholm

Greg Compean is no stranger to helping out and volunteering his services when tragedy strikes, a trait that’s especially admirable given his specific line of work: a funeral home owner.

As the Bexar County Medical Examiner’s office in San Antonio begins the tedious task of identifying the 40 men and 13 women who died as a result of the nation’s deadliest human smuggling incident, there still remains the hurdle of preparing those people’s remains and getting them safely back to their families in their countries miles away.

“When you’re in the profession we’re in, you don’t pick and choose who you serve. We serve everyone, especially with something so tragic like this,” Gregory Compean, president of Compean Funeral Home told ABC 13 News. Mr Compean has offered up his services of preparing the bodies to be sent back to their countries of origin, a “marathon”-like process that he says he is all too familiar with, having volunteered himself for a similar tragedy back in 2003 when 19 migrants died in the back of a hot trailer in texas.

“This is only the beginning, I can tell you this. This is going to be a marathon. This is not going to be a sprint,” Mr Compean told Click 2 Houston. “Anytime human remains are shipped out of the country, those remains have to be properly embalmed within all the rules and regulations in the state of Texas to be accepted by that other country.”

Mr Compean is humble when saying that volunteering is the least he could provide during this time of need, but also notes that he feels a strong personal connection to stories like the one coming out of San Antonio this week.

“My grandparents were not born in this country, and once upon a time envisioned for a better life and opportunity, and as we sit here today as beneficiaries of that sacrifice from my grandparents, it’s the right thing to do,” Mr Compean said.

‘This was a crime against humanity’: San Antonio Police Chief describes ‘beyond tragic’ scene

16:17 , Johanna Chisholm

First reponders arriving to the tractor-trailer on the side of the road in a remote part of San Antonio say no one could’ve been prepared for what they saw when they opened the door to the stifling truck.

“This was a crime against humanity,” said San Antonio Police Chief William McManus in an interview with CNN. The teams that first picked up the call on their scanners thought they’d be engaging in a rescue operation, the police chief told the news outlet. Instead, it was something much bleaker.

“This was nothing but pure evil, that someone could allow this to happen, to anyone, let alone that many people,” the chief said. “The floor of the trailer, it was completely covered in bodies. Completely covered in bodies ... There were at least 10-plus bodies outside the trailer, because when we arrived, when EMS arrived, we were trying to find people who were still alive. So we had to move bodies out of the trailer onto the ground.”

San Antonio Police Chief William McManus, center, briefs media and others at the scene where dozens of people were found dead and multiple others were taken to hospitals with heat-related illnesses after a semitrailer containing suspected migrants was found, Monday, June 27, 2022, in San Antonio (Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)
San Antonio Police Chief William McManus, center, briefs media and others at the scene where dozens of people were found dead and multiple others were taken to hospitals with heat-related illnesses after a semitrailer containing suspected migrants was found, Monday, June 27, 2022, in San Antonio (Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

Supreme Court clears Biden to end Trump-era ‘Remain in Mexico’ immigration policy

15:43 , Johanna Chisholm

The Supreme Court ruled on Thursday that the Biden administration properly ended a Trump-era policy forcing some US asylum-seekers to wait in Mexico.The justices’ 5-4 decision for the administration came in a case about the “Remain in Mexico” policy under President Donald Trump.President Joe Biden suspended the program on his first day in office in January 2021. But lower courts ordered it reinstated in response to a lawsuit from Republican-led Texas and Missouri. The current administration has sent far fewer people back to Mexico than did the Trump administration.

Photos: Migrants in Texas trailer tragedy died seeking better lives

15:33 , Johanna Chisholm

On Monday, at least 53 died after being trapped inside a tractor-trailer near Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio in late June 2022. Officials are now calling it the deadliest smuggling incident in US history, as the tragic deaths and untold suffering underscores the desperation of the people who go north searching for a better life risking their own lives, even if it means tapping in to dangerous human trafficking routes.

In pictures, here are some of the 53 people whose lives came to an abrupt halt this week after they were left in the sweltering heat on the outskirts of San Antonio. The dead included 27 people from Mexico, 14 from Honduras, seven from Guatemala and two from El Salvador, said Francisco Garduño, chief of Mexico’s National Immigration Institute.

Alejandro Miguel Andino Caballero,Margie Tamara Paz Grajeda and Fernando Redondo Caballero

Alejandro Miguel Andino Caballero and his girlfriend Margie Tamara Paz Grajeda, along with Caballero´s brother, Fernando Redondo Caballero, died near San Antonio, Texas after 51 bodies were found in hot trailer full of dead migrants being smuggled into the US.

In this undated photo provided by Karen Caballero, her son Alejandro Miguel Andino Caballero and his girlfriend Margie Tamara Paz Grajera pose for a photo at an undisclosed location in Honduras. (AP)
In this undated photo provided by Karen Caballero, her son Alejandro Miguel Andino Caballero and his girlfriend Margie Tamara Paz Grajera pose for a photo at an undisclosed location in Honduras. (AP)
In this undated photo provided by Karen Caballero, her son Fernando Redondo Caballero poses for a photo at an undisclosed location in Honduras
In this undated photo provided by Karen Caballero, her son Fernando Redondo Caballero poses for a photo at an undisclosed location in Honduras

Wilmer Tulul and Pascual Melvin Guachiac

Wilmer Tulul and Pascual Melvin Guachiac were 13-year-old cousins from Tzucubal, Guatemala who grew up doing everything together. Wilmer last messaged his mother, Magdalena Tepaz, on Monday with the note: “Mom, we’re heading out.” Relatives in Houston who were supposed to pick the two boys up this week later relayed the terrible news, which was also confirmed by the Guatemalan government, to the children’s families: they were in the trailer on Monday and had not survived.

Maria Sipac Coj holds a portrait of her son Pascual Melvin Guachiac in Tzucubal, Guatemala, Wednesday, June 29, 2022 (Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)
Maria Sipac Coj holds a portrait of her son Pascual Melvin Guachiac in Tzucubal, Guatemala, Wednesday, June 29, 2022 (Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)
A man shows a portrait of Wilmer Tulul, in Tzucubal, Guatemala, Wednesday, June 29, 2022 (Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)
A man shows a portrait of Wilmer Tulul, in Tzucubal, Guatemala, Wednesday, June 29, 2022 (Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

Files from the Associated Press

‘Looking for better opportunities’: Uncle of hospitalised survivor describes his nephew’s journey north

14:57 , Johanna Chisholm

Before he began the journey that ended in disaster, Jose Luis Vasquez lived in a remote mountainous community in southern Mexico, where a single telephone connects a few indigenous families to the outside world, local residents said.

Now the 31-year-old is in a hospital in San Antonio, Texas, after becoming severely dehydrated in a sweltering tractor-trailer truck in which at least 53 migrants died in the worst human smuggling tragedy in recent US history.

One of them was as young as 13.

Vasquez had recently left the Mexican Army, according to his uncle Aquilino Guzman, who said he had seen his nephew several weeks before he left for the United States. But Vasquez had not shared those travel plans, Mr Guzman said.

“I guess it was the same story as always,” Mr Guzman told Reuters. “Looking for better opportunities.”

 (AP)
(AP)

Does arrested driver Homero Zamorano have a criminal history?

14:09 , Johanna Chisholm

Homero Zamorano, 45, has been charged with one count of alien smuggling resulting in death and is expected to appear for his first hearing in federal court on Thursday.

During a press conference on Wednesday, Mexican officials provided new insight into the path that Zamorano took up from Mexico.

The 45-year-old reportedly entered the US in Laredo, with Custom Border Patrol snapping a picture of the smiling driver as he passed through with dozens of migrants stowed in the truck’s trailer undetected.

The truck reportedly passed through checkpoints in Encinal and Cotulla, according to KSAT News.

Arrest records for Zamorano, who lives in Texas, showed that he’d had run-ins with the law going back to 1995, with convictions ranging from felony charges of burglary of a habitation to a misdemeanour for marijuana charges, according to the Texas Department of Public Safety Criminal History.

ICYMI: Abbott announces new measure along the southern border

13:33 , Johanna Chisholm

On Wednesday, just days after at least 53 people were died in what’s being described as one of the deadliest smuggling incidents in the US, Texas Gov Greg Abbott announced new sweeping measures along his state’s southern bordern which he says will “mitigate President Biden’s growing border crisis”.

The announcement made at Eagle Pass, Texas, one of the busiest crossings for people making their way up through Mexico into the US, included the addition of DPS strike teams, each consisting of 20 troopers, to the crossing to “detect and deter unlawful border crossings and apprehend illegal immigrants”.

“President Biden needs to focus on addressing the humanitarian crisis his reckless leadership has created at the border, instead of attacking the jobs of hardworking Texans and oil production in the Permian Basin,” said Gov Abbott.

In addition to the strike teams, the Republican governor also announced that DPS will be implementing new vehicle inspection checkpoints targeting semi-trucks beginning immediately.

“The Lone Star State will not sit idly by as the federal government chooses to ignore the historic number of illegal crossings, human smuggling, and drug trafficking of deadly fentanyl from Mexico into the United States,” said Mr Abbott. “Our government has no greater responsibility than to provide public safety to its citizens. Until President Biden decides to uphold immigration laws passed by Congress, the State of Texas will continue utilizing every tool available to secure the border and keep Texans – and Americans – safe.”

Photo shows smiling Homero Zamorano crossing border driving trailer packed with migrants

12:40 , Johanna Chisholm

A photo released by immigration officials this week shows a smiling Homero Zamorano crossing the US-Mexico border, days before the 45-year-old would be charged by federal prosecutors with one count of alien smuggling resulting in death.

Zamorano, who was allegedly “very high on meth” when authorities arrested him this week and was posing as one of the survivors after the tragedy that left at least 53 people dead, according to police reports.

The alleged driver of a truck carrying dozens of migrants, identified by Mexican immigration officials as ‘Homero N’, drives through a security checkpoint in this surveillance photograph in Laredo, Texas, in this handout photo distributed to Reuters on June 29, 2022 (via REUTERS)
The alleged driver of a truck carrying dozens of migrants, identified by Mexican immigration officials as ‘Homero N’, drives through a security checkpoint in this surveillance photograph in Laredo, Texas, in this handout photo distributed to Reuters on June 29, 2022 (via REUTERS)

Zamorano, the suspected driver of the truck found on the side of the road in San Antonio on Monday, is originally from the Texas border city of Brownsville, according to the US Attorney’s Office in San Antonio.

In an interview with the New York Post, Zamorano’s estranged wife pushed back against the negative portrayal her spouse was receiving in the news and described him as being “a good man.”

“I’m in shock, I mean, I just don’t even know what to say about it,” Jennifer Duncan told the New York outlet. “I know he wouldn’t do anything if he knew it was gonna harm anybody.”

“He goes out of his way to help anybody and everybody,” she said.

The 45-year-old’s first court appearance is scheduled for Thursday. If convicted on the charge, he could face up to life in prison or the death penalty.

First responders begin rehab process after responding to ‘horrific scene’ on Monday

12:05 , Johanna Chisholm

San Antonio Fire Department’s Engine 52 was one of the first crews to arrive at the scene of an 18-wheeler on Monday where more than 60 people, most of whom would later be confirmed dead, lay trapped inside a sweltering tractor-trailer without access to water or air conditioning.

“Looks like quite a few of them are already deceased,” one of the crew member said into a scanner, which was reviewed by New York Times reporters. “We’re going to start sorting through the ones that are currently breathing.”

For hours on Monday evening, dedicated first responders began sifting through bodies, which were later described as being too hot to touch initially, to try and find the survivors. That scene is one that the crews, some of whom were still processing the scenes from the mass shooting in Uvalde that saw 19 children and two teachers die, will not be easily forgotten.

“It was a horrific scene, something I’ll never forget, and it will stick with us forever,” Dr Bryan Everitt, associate medical director of SAFD, told KSAT News.

The rehab process for the first responders reportedly began as early as Monday night, public information officer Joe Arrington told KSAT. Days later, that support has only grown larger as they continue to support the dozens who came to offer their services this week in what has been described as one of the deadliest smuggling incidents to occur on US soil in history.

“We have a peer support team. It’s a bunch of firefighters that are trained and paramedics that are trained to do debriefings, to do counselling,” Mr Arrington said in an interview with the news outlet.

The peer support team, he confirmed, is made up of over 50 members with specialised training.

Mexican migrant in Texas tragedy hoped to reach kin in Ohio

11:00 , Stuti Mishra

The two cousins returned to the tiny, hardscrabble hamlet they grew up in in southern Mexico about two weeks ago to say goodbye in what has become a right of passage for generations of migrants from their remote, impoverished mountainous region in Oaxaca state.

It would not be the first trip to the US-Mexico border for Javier Flores López, now in his mid-30s, who had left Cerro Verde years ago and went to Ohio, where his father and a brother live and he worked in construction.

He was back home to see his wife and three small children briefly, said a cousin, Francisco López Hernández. This time he was returning to the United States with another cousin, José Luis Vásquez Guzmán, 32, who was going for the first time and hoped to join his oldest brother who was in Ohio as well.

While everyone knew the risks, countless people from Cerro Verde had made it safely across the US-Mexico border with the help of smugglers, so it came as a shock, López Hernández said, to learn his cousins and dozens of other migrants were abandoned inside a tractor-trailer sweltering under the Texas sun.

Read more:

Mexican migrant in Texas tragedy hoped to reach kin in Ohio

San Antonio sheriff rips into Abbott for turning migrant trailer tragedy into ‘one big campaign stunt’

10:00 , Stuti Mishra

The sheriff of Bexar County, which contains San Antonio, has expressed his disappointment and anger at Texas governor Greg Abbott for turning the tractor-trailer tragedy into “one big campaign stunt”.

On Tuesday, sheriff Javier Salazar wrote to US president Joe Biden and complained that Mr Abbott had used the trailer tragedy – in which at least 53 migrants lost their lives — to gain political points.

The Texas governor had blamed the San Antonio tragedy on Mr Biden and his immigration policies.

My colleague Maroosha Muzaffar has more:

San Antonio sheriff raps Abbott for turning trailer tragedy into ‘campaign stunt’