Cousins, 13, Died in San Antonio Tractor-Trailer, Parents Say Smugglers Charged $6,000 for Deadly Journey
Johan ORDONEZ/getty Melvin Guachiac (L) and Wilmer Tulul
Heartbreaking details about those who died in an abandoned tractor-trailer in San Antonio earlier this week are starting to emerge.
Wilmer Tulul and Pascual Melvin Guachiac, 13-year-old cousins from Tzucubal, Guatemala – an Indigenous Quiche community of around 1,500 people in the mountains about 100 miles from the country's capital – made the trek to the United States in search of a better life for themselves and their loved ones, their families told the Associated Press.
Wilmer's mom, Magdalena Tepaz, told the outlet the boys had left home on June 14. The last time she would hear her son's voice was in a short, four-word audio message: "Mom, we're heading out."
Wilmer's father, Manuel de Jesús Tulul, told AP his son yearned for a better life not only for himself, but for his three siblings as well, and hoped to have a house and own land someday.
Melvin's mother, María Sipac Coj, said the boys grew up together and did everything with one another, and that her son "wanted to study in the United States, then work and after build my house."
Esteban Biba/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock Magdalena Tepaz, mother of Wilmer Tulul
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Relatives had reportedly arranged and paid half of the $6,000 the smuggler charged to bring the boys across the border, and were awaiting their arrival in Houston.
Those same relatives were the ones to tell Wilmer and Melvin's families of their deaths, and the Guatemalan government confirmed the boys' deaths on Wednesday.
On Thursday, the two mothers arrived together at the Guatemalan Foreign Ministry to do DNA tests so their sons' bodies can be returned to them. Tepaz broke down in tears as she spoke about her son while a little girl, believed to be one of the boys' sisters held up a picture of the inseparable duo.
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Melvin and Wilmer's families join others who have been speaking out about their tragic losses.
On Wednesday, the mother of two victims of the San Antonio tragedy said her sons had tried to get jobs in America but had been denied time and time again so say this as a last resort for their family.
Karen Caballero, of Honduras, told Noticias Telemundo that her sons, Fernando José Redondo Caballero and Alejandro Miguel Andino Caballero, were also found in the tractor-trailer on Monday.
In the interview, translated by NBC News, Caballero said her sons "were so excited" for their trip to the United States.
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The mother said that her sons began their journey on June 4, according to Reuters, which cited separate media interviews. Also joining the brothers was Margie Tamara Paz, 24, whom Caballero referred to as her daughter-in-law, the Washington Post reported.
The Honduran government has since confirmed that identification documents for the brothers and Paz were found inside the tractor-trailer, according to NBC News.
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Forty-eight people were found dead at the scene on Monday, according to a news release from the Department of Justice. Twenty-two of the individuals were Mexican nationals while seven were from Guatemala and two from Honduras. Authorities couldn't identify the origin of 17 of the deceased but it's believed they are undocumented non-citizens.
Sixteen other individuals were taken from the scene to a nearby hospital where five died, bringing the death toll to 53. "Officials are working with foreign consulate offices for proper notifications to family members of the deceased," the DOJ said.