16 people found inside makeshift wooden container in apparent human smuggling attempt

Trailer stopped outside of Poteet

By Stephanie Serna - Reporter, Adam B. Higgins - Photojournalist, Mary Claire Patton - Digital Content Curator

POTEET, Texas - More than a dozen suspected victims of human smuggling were discovered inside a makeshift wooden container on a towing trailer Monday morning.

The discovery was made after a deputy with the Atascosa County Constable Precinct 3, pulled a vehicle over between the towns of Poteet and Jourdanton on Highway 16.

Twelve men and four women were found crammed inside the hidden compartment, which appeared to be made out of construction materials.

"This is the very first time I've ever seen this," said County Constable Precinct 3 Rick Luna. "We've seen them in pickups and stuff like that, but this is the very first time we've seen this."

Luna said his deputy, Marissa Valdez, made the initial traffic stop after the truck that was hauling the trailer crossed a yellow line into Valdez's lane.

When the driver of the truck started acting suspicious, Valdez called for backup and deputies later made the shocking discovery.

"As they approached the trailer, they heard someone knocking on the wood," Luna said. 

"Which indicated somebody was inside being smuggled at that point. So, they removed the blocks and once they were able to remove the block -- we had some people inside," he said.

Luna said it's not clear where the immigrants were coming from but they were probably stuck in that compartment for at least four hours.

"We ran and got them something to eat," Luna said. "Obviously, they were hungry. They haven't eaten since yesterday. So, I had someone bring some sandwiches."

Two of the four women had to be taken to a local hospital for heat-related issues, but everyone else was taken to the Border Patrol offices in Cotulla, Luna said.

The case is now being investigated by the Border Patrol in Cotulla, where the truck driver is in custody, facing possible federal charges.

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