(SAN ANTONIO) -- Two men have been indicted in connection with the discovery of 53 people dead in an overheated tractor-trailer in one of the largest mass migrant casualty events in U.S. history.
A federal grand jury in San Antonio, Texas, indicted Homero Zamorano Jr., 46, and Christian Martinez, 28, in connection with the June 27 tragedy.
They have each been charged with one count of conspiracy to transport illegal aliens resulting in death; one count of transportation of illegal aliens resulting in death; one count of conspiracy to transport aliens resulting in serious bodily injury and placing lives in jeopardy; and one count of transportation of illegal aliens resulting in serious bodily injury and placing lives in jeopardy.
If convicted, the two could face up to life in prison or the death penalty. Attorney General Merrick Garland will decide whether to seek the death penalty in this case.
The incident unfolded in the southcentral Texas city when a nearby worker heard a cry for help and found the tractor-trailer with the doors partially opened and the bodies of 46 people inside, according to San Antonio Police Chief Bill McManus and San Antonio Fire Department Chief Charles Hood. More than a dozen were taken to local hospitals, with seven later dying.
Homeland Security Investigations special agents responded to the scene.
The trailer was refrigerated but did not have a visibly working air-conditioning unit and there were no signs of water inside, officials said.
Several victims who were taken to local hospitals were described by Hood as being hot to the touch and all suffering from heat stroke and heat exhaustion.
"They suffered, horrendously, could have been for hours," Hood said.