Migrant heat-related deaths are up year-over-year in Pinal County

Pinal County officials say migrant deaths are up compared to last year.
Published: Aug. 8, 2023 at 10:24 AM MST|Updated: Aug. 9, 2023 at 10:05 AM MST
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PINAL COUNTY, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) -- The Pinal County Medical Examiner’s Office says if we compare this year compared to this time last year the numbers of heat-related deaths for migrants are up significantly.

Last July, there were 30 migrant heat deaths in Pinal County and this year there were 42. Arizona’s Family is told it’s all due to the record breaking temperatures we saw.

The unrelenting heat made crossing the border an even more treacherous journey. This June compared to last year was more mild -- the number of migrant deaths during that month were lower than average. but after July’s record-breaking heat they are expecting to still see a large number of people die while crossing the border.

“For a total of a year, it’ll really depend on how long it stays hot here in August. It really just kind of depends on how long it’s going to stay hot for. We are in a hot week in August. It’s just kind of skewed later this summer,” said Greg Hess, the Chief Medical Examiner for Pinal County.

“Clearly a big challenge is if people are identified or not. If you have unidentified remains or you don’t know who people are they may linger in your facility for longer because you can’t find next of kin to move their remains on to their final disposition. That is the challenge here because some of the migrant remains, everyone kinda comes in unidentified until we can sort it out,” Hess said.

Hess says many of these remains are unidentifiable due to people traveling without any documentation. That makes their job more difficult.

Border Patrol chief Jason Owens tweeted that dehydration is the leading cause of the rescues and deaths agents encounter.

In one week this past month they made 226 heat related rescues. Officials are also anticipating August to be a challenging month for them.

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