A traffic stop south of San Antonio, Texas, on Monday morning revealed a dangerous case of human smuggling, according to local authorities.
After pulling a white pickup truck over outside Poteet, a deputy interviewed the driver and searched the vehicle — including the trailer behind the pickup, from which deputies could hear “knocking and pleas for help from under a pile of construction materials,” the Atascosa County Constable Precinct 3 said in a Facebook post Monday.
“They cut the strap that was holding the load in place. After taking some of the boards off they noticed a tarp, (and) under the tarp we found 16 Mexican nationals,” Chief Deputy Phillip Bozquez said, noting that temperatures were around 90 degrees, according to KTSA. “They were all piled on top of each other.”
Authorities described the 16 people in the trailer as “victims of human smuggling” — two of them women who were taken to a hospital because of heat-related medical problems, authorities said.
“It was basically an oven,” Bozquez said, according to KTSA, adding that the 14 men found in the trailer “were all treated at the scene by EMS.”
The constable’s office said in the Facebook post that the situation could have been worse, “but with proactive police work we feel 16 lives were saved today from untold trauma.”
Authorities said the driver is in custody and may face federal smuggling charges.
The Facebook post has been shared more than 1,000 times as of Monday afternoon.
Photos the constable’s office shared on Facebook from the scene show men with bottles of water and at least one person lying on the ground with first responders nearby.
Local authorities did not immediately respond to McClatchy’s request for comment.
“Some claimed they were going to San Antonio,” Bozquez said, per KTSA “Others said they were going to Houston. With the temperature and humidity being so high today, this could have been tragic.”
The Mexican nationals involved are in custody until federal officials get them, KTSA reports.
The constable’s office said in a follow-up Facebook post that the Atascosa County Sheriff’s Office kitchen staff helped “get food and cold drinks to the victims today.”
“They were able to laugh and relax after the horrible situation they were in just hours before,” the Facebook post said.