A South Texas trucker says the tractor-trailer rig in which 51 illegal immigrants died was “cloned” and did not belong to him.
The truck was found abandoned in sweltering heat Monday on a remote road near San Antonio. A scene of horror and misery greeted authorities when they opened the doors to reveal the bodies of 46 and 16 more people barely alive. Five of the survivors subsequently died.
“All were the apparent victims of human smugglers indifferent to the well-being of human life,” U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Texas Ashley C. Hoff said in a statement. “The South Texas heat is brutal this time of year, especially given the recent record-high temperatures.”
— New York Post (@nypost) June 28, 2022
Felipe Betancourt Jr. of Alamo, Texas, told ValleyCentral.com that reporters called his father believing the truck was from their Betancourt Trucking and Harvesting fleet based on its markings. But he said his family’s semi has been parked in the Rio Grande Valley since last Friday. He believes its U.S. Department of Transportation number was duplicated or “cloned” last week when the truck was in Laredo.
“So, that’s how we found out,” Betancourt said of the news inquiries. “Then we started looking it up and you know, come to be that our DOT number is the one coming out you know, for the DOT that that truck over there in San Antonio has.”
In addition to bearing the same DOT markings, the truck used to smuggle the migrants was the same color as Betancourt’s. But it does not bear the company’s logo, officials said, according to The Texas Tribune.
Betancourt pledged to help authorities in the investigation and wants the public to know his father’s company is not connected to the truck tragedy.
The victims included 39 men and a dozen women, according to officials. Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard tweeted that the dead include 22 Mexicans, seven Guatemalans and two Hondurans. News4SanAntonio reported Tuesday that five children were among the dead.
Department of Homeland Security investigators have taken over the probe. On Tuesday, San Antonio Police Chief William McManus said police caught the driver in a nearby field and is now in federal custody, according to The New York Times. In addition, documents filed in federal court Tuesday say police arrested two Mexican nationals in a raid at a San Antonio home listed on the tractor-trailer’s registration, NBC News reported.