Victoria sheriff remembers deadly smuggling incident of 2003

The deadliest human smuggling case in the United States unfolded over a decade ago in Victoria.

VICTORIA - The deadliest human smuggling case in the United States unfolded over a decade ago in Victoria.

A memorial, with lots of water bottles, still marks the area outside the gas station where 19 immigrants died 14 years ago.

Victoria County Sheriff T. Michael O'Connor was one of the first deputies on the scene back in May 2003.

"God help us if we see this again," O'Connor said.

Nineteen immigrants suffocated in the back of the trailer.

More than 50 survived.

"It's a plight in which they leave an environment that's dangerous at best, economics, and they just know that coming to the US is going to be a better land, the promised land," O'Connor said.

But as we saw in Victoria, and now San Antonio, making it to that promised land often never happens.

"Unfortunately, it's a journey from hell," O'Connor said.

Sheriff O'Connor says his agency has since learned how to better handle mass fatalities and obstacles that aren't always so obvious in a tragedy.

"Just the language barrier alone, you assume Spanish, well in some cases we've had to communicate with Chinese," O'Connor said.

O'Connor says agencies have to work with one another and learn from each other. He says it's the only way to stop the criminals who organize crimes like these.

"We have to think like them, and then try to do our best to try and prevent something of a catastrophic nature like this," O'Connor said.

The driver of the tractor trailer from the Victoria incident is currently in prison, serving a 34-year prison sentence.

© 2017 KENS-TV


JOIN THE CONVERSATION

To find out more about Facebook commenting please read the
Conversation Guidelines and FAQs

Leave a Comment