Man arrested after group of migrants found trapped in train car near Uvalde; new details released

Suspect said he was acting as ‘foot guide’ to pay for his own smuggling costs

2 dead in rail car near Uvalde; human smuggling investigation indicated

UVALDE COUNTY, Texas – A man was arrested after a dozen migrants were found in a train car east of Knippa on Friday, according to a criminal complaint from Homeland Security Investigations that revealed new details in the smuggling operation that left two men dead.

The document states that Denniso Carranza Gonzales has been charged with conspiracy to transport illegal aliens resulting in death. He told authorities that he was a “foot guide” for the migrants, who were traveling from Piedras Negras, Coahuila, a city across the border from Eagle Pass, to San Antonio.

Along the way, the complaint states, the group became trapped in the sweltering car and Gonzales started to tell the group to call 911.

At 3:50 p.m. on Friday, U.S. Border Patrol agents said they received a call from Uvalde police about multiple people locked inside a train car.

HSI said Saturday that there were 17 people inside the car, but the complaint released on Wednesday states that 12 Honduran migrants were found in the vehicle.

Two men from Honduras were pronounced dead at the scene, and 10 other individuals were taken to area hospitals for treatment.

Medical helicopters flew six patients to San Antonio hospitals, the complaint states. Several ambulances also arrived at the scene to help transport others to nearby hospitals, Uvalde police said.

Three patients were taken to Medina Regional Hospital in Hondo and one was taken to Uvalde Memorial Hospital in Uvalde.

According to the complaint, Gonzales said he has been a smuggling guide for about three months. He said he smuggles groups from Piedras Negras through the Rio Grande and then to railroad tracks.

“From there they would ride the trains to San Antonio, Texas,” the document states. He added that he worked to pay for “his own smuggling costs,” and his smugglers “stated he would be taken care of for continuing to smuggle groups” into the U.S.

In Friday’s operation, he said a second man arrived and told him and the group to get inside the Conex train car. When they boarded the train, the man closed and locked the doors behind Gonzales and the group, making them “worried,” the complaint states.

Gonzales said the group “looked to him for guidance as he was their foot guide and responsible for them.”

When temperatures inside the car began to rise, Gonzales said he called the second man to open the door to let air in. That man did not answer the phone, and Gonzales said he advised the group to start calling 911.

This was one of two fatal smuggling operations on train cars last week in South Texas. On Saturday afternoon, 12 migrants were found in a rail car in Eagle Pass after having been trapped for over 24 hours. One person was pronounced dead at the scene.

‘It’s heartbreaking’

It’s unclear what exact conditions those rescued were in, but Uvalde Police Chief Daniel Rodriguez said many were more than likely dehydrated due to the heat of the train cars and the current high temperatures.

According to the closest official reporting station, the temperature in the area was 87°F at 3:55 p.m.

“It’s sad to see that so many undocumented immigrants were found in this condition, and two of them lost their lives. It’s heartbreaking,” Rodriguez said.

U.S. Highway 90 East at FM 2730 was reopened just before 7 p.m. after being closed for several hours, according to Uvalde police. Drivers were asked to use Highway 127 and Ranch Road 187 in Sabinal and FM 1049 in Knippa to avoid the scene.

Knippa is a small town on U.S. 90 about 75 miles west of downtown San Antonio and 10 miles northeast of Uvalde. It is more than 70 miles from the U.S.-Mexico border.

U.S. Highway 90 East at FM 2730 (KSAT)

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About the Authors

Rebecca Salinas is an award-winning digital journalist who joined KSAT in 2019. She reports on a variety of topics for KSAT 12 News.

Ivan Herrera has worked as a journalist in San Antonio since 2016. His work for KSAT 12 and includes covering breaking news of the day, as well as producing Q&As and content for the "South Texas Pride" and "KSAT Money" series.

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