SAN ANTONIO – A search is underway for more than 100 smuggled immigrants who took off into the woods after fleeing from a refrigerated truck at a QuikTrip gas station in south Bexar County, according to Sheriff Javier Salazar.
The incident happened around 6 p.m. Thursday at the QT gas station near IH-37 and Loop 1604.
Sheriff Salazar said deputies received a call from someone within the truckload of undocumented immigrants, saying they needed help and were running out of air.
Sheriff Javier Salazar provides details regarding an incident in far South Bexar County. ￼Posted by Bexar County Sheriff's Office on Thursday, February 18, 2021
The truck had been modified to help the smugglers avoid detection, according to officials. Openings on the inside of the truck were sealed off with foam, creating an “airtight enclosure.” Salazar said those in the back of the truck were in danger of suffocating.
Deputies patrolled the area, and that’s when one of them noticed a large group of people jumping out of the back of the refrigerated truck and running into the woods, according to the BCSO.
Salazar said deputies have detained about 50 of the 200 immigrants so far. Those who have been accounted for are being held in the gas station, pending further investigation.
Officials believe the smuggling suspects may be intermixed with the victims in the group, and the sheriff’s office is working to determine who the suspects are at this time.
Salazar said, overall, everyone seems to be in good health. However, the concern is for those who fled into the woods, given the freezing temperatures. Salazar said many were dressed in T-shirts and jeans, which could pose a threat to their health in the winter conditions.
The sheriff’s office is still working to account for everyone involved.
Homeland Security Investigations issued this statement on Friday, regarding the incident:
“On Feb. 18, Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) responded to a call from Bexar County Sheriff’s Office (BCSO) for assistance on a possible human smuggling case involving a semi-tractor trailer discovered in a local gas station parking lot. About 50 individuals both males and females were encountered. The undocumented immigrants, from Mexico, Guatemala and El Salvador, are being assisted by community based organizations.. HSI special agents interviewed the migrants as part of a criminal investigation, which is ongoing. The status of those encountered is being reviewed. HSI urges anyone with information about this smuggling attempt to call (866) 347-2423.”
Further details are limited at this time. Anyone with more information is urged to call BCSO at 210-335-6000. We’ll bring more updates as they become available.