Publisher's Note: This post appears here courtesy of the The Daily Wire. The author of this post is Brandon Drey.
In the aftermath of the deadliest migrant smuggling event on the U.S.-Mexico border in American history that took the lives of 53 Mexican and Central American citizens in San Antonio, Texas, on Monday, the driver of the semi-truck could face life in prison or the death penalty if convicted.
"This is a horror that surpasses anything we've experienced before,"
San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg said, according to the Associated Press. "And it's sadly a preventable tragedy."
Authorities said Homero Zamorano Jr. transported 64 illegal immigrants across the southern border and allegedly was "very high on meth,"
the Daily Mail reported. Authorities said Zamorano hid in nearby bushes after attempting to escape.
Zamorano, originally from Brownsville, Texas, lives in Pasadena, Texas, a Houston suburb, authorities said. Six months before the tragedy earlier this week in San Antonio, Zamorano and his now-estranged wife, Jennifer Duncan, separated, the New York Post reported.
"I'm in shock,"
Duncan told the New York Post. "I mean, I just don't even know what to say about it. I know he wouldn't do anything if he knew it was gonna harm anybody."
Duncan called Zamorano "a good man"
who "goes out of his way to help anybody and everybody."
Authorities charged three other men who were also found at the scene where a tractor-trailer truck first went through a Border Patrol checkpoint northeast of Laredo on Interstate 35 on Monday.
Authorities arrested Christian Martinez, 28, on Tuesday in Palestine, Texas, and charged him with one count of conspiracy to transport illegal aliens resulting in death. Court documents show through a search warrant on Martinez's cell phone that he and Zamorano were in contact regarding the smuggling event. Martinez faces up to life in prison or could face the death penalty if convicted.
Also arrested in the smuggling event were Mexican citizens Juan Claudio D' Luna-Mendez, 23, and Juan Francisco D' Luna-Bilbao, 48, who allegedly entered the U.S. illegally and were charged by criminal complaint with one count of possession of a weapon by an illegal immigrant. If convicted, both defendants face up to 10 years in prison.
Homeland Security Investigations and the San Antonio Police Department responded to the human smuggling scene after receiving 911 calls from nearby citizens.
Police said they discovered multiple individuals inside the tractor-trailer and on the ground in nearby brush - many of whom were already dead or incapacitated.
Homeland Security authorities confirmed that 48 individuals at the scene were deceased, including 22 Mexicans, seven Guatemalans, two Hondurans, and 17 other illegal immigrants from an unknown origin.
According to the Associated Press, Rubén Minutti, Mexico's consul general in San Antonio, said several survivors were in critical condition with injuries such as brain damage and internal bleeding.
Five illegal immigrants died at a nearby hospital after authorities transported 16 of the 64 illegal immigrants found in or around the semi-truck. With the temperature reaching nearly 100 degrees, some were dealing with heat-related illnesses.
The Associated Press reported San Antonio Fire Chief Charles Hood said those taken to the hospital were hot to the touch and dehydrated without water found in the trailer.
"They were suffering from heat stroke and exhaustion,"
Hood said. "It was a refrigerated tractor-trailer, but there was no visible working AC unit on that rig."
Hood told KHOU 11 on Monday, "We're not supposed to open up a truck and see stacks of bodies."
President Joe Biden called the deaths "horrifying and heartbreaking,"
the Associated Press reported.
"Exploiting vulnerable individuals for profit is shameful, as is political grandstanding around tragedy, and my administration will continue to do everything possible to stop human smugglers and traffickers from taking advantage of people who are seeking to enter the United States between ports of entry,"
Biden said in a statement.
Craig Larrabee, acting special agent in charge of Homeland Security Investigations in San Antonio, said, according to the Associated Press, South Texas has long been the busiest area for illegal border crossings. He added that U.S. authorities discover trucks with migrants inside "pretty close"
Larrabee said illegal immigrants pay anywhere from $8,000 to $10,000 for transportation across the border. Then, after packing into a tractor-trailer and hitching a ride to San Antonio, he said the smugglers transfer them to smaller vehicles for their final destinations across the United States.