The driver of the San Antonio migrant truck, in which dozens of people were found dead, tried to pose as a victim when he was found, the head of Mexico’s National Migration Institute told a press conference Wednesday.
The overheated truck was discovered in a remote area in San Antonio on Monday, and at least 53 people have died as of Wednesday, local authorities said. Most of the victims were believed to be migrants crossing into the US from Mexico.
The man suspected of driving the truck, identified as 45-year-old Homero Zamorano Jr., was arrested after he was found hiding in a bush, the Department of Justice said.
When he was approached by officials, he “disguised himself” as one of the survivors, Francisco Garduno, the head of the National Migration Institute – or INM – told reporters on Wednesday.
“The conductor was identified as Homero N, the same one that tried to pass himself off as one of the survivors,” Garduno said. “The INM had no records on the man accused of driving the trailer.”
Garduno said that surveillance cameras had previously captured him driving the truck through a security checkpoint earlier in the day.
Zamorano and another man, identified as Christian Martinez, were both charged in connection with the incident, according to federal prosecutors.
According to the DOJ, Zamorano was charged with alien smuggling resulting in death, while Martinez was charged with one count of conspiracy to transport illegal aliens resulting in death.
If convicted, each man faces a maximum sentence of life in prison or the death penalty, the release said.
San Antonio’s fire chief, Charles Hood, told a Monday press conference that officials found no sign of water or air-conditioning when they opened up the abandoned truck and that survivors were “hot to the touch.”
“They were suffering from heat stroke, heat exhaustion,” Hood said.
“It was a refrigerated tractor-trailer but there was no visible working A / C unit on that rig,” he added. “We are not supposed to open up a truck and see stacks of bodies. Nobody comes to work for that.”
San Antonio has been experiencing the hottest June since records began, the Texas Tribune reported. On Monday — the day the truck was found — temperatures were as high as 101 degrees Fahrenheit, the National Weather Service said.