A Colombian woman and her 11-year-old daughter were found dead in an Arizona desert amid scorching temperatures last month — abandoned by a human smuggler as they attempted to make the perilous crossing into the US from Mexico, officials and reports said.
US Customs and Border Protection said officers found the deceased mom and daughter, and a second child who was still alive, on Aug. 25 after responding to a 911 call about a family of three in distress on the Cocopah Reservation, near Yuma, Ariz.
The mom was identified as Claudia Marcela Peña by Telemundo, which said it obtained her desperate call to authorities, made moments before she apparently succumbed to the heat.
“Please help me, I’m going to pass out,” Peña told the 911 operator, according to the outlet.
The woman and her children, including the surviving toddler boy, had been trying to reunite with her husband in the US, the report said.
Family members said the three were abandoned in the desert — where August temperatures reach highs of 102 degrees — by a “coyote” or human smuggler, who was taking them across the border.
One of her children could be heard pleading, “Mommy, I’m hungry” in the background, the report said.
The operator then sent Peña a WhatsApp message asking her to share her location. Her phone died a few minutes later, Telemundo reported.
The Colombian Ministry of Foreign Relations confirmed the deaths of the mom and daughter, and said their bodies showed no signs of violence, according to a forensic examiner.
The 2-year-old boy who was found alive was placed in a center for minors in California. The Office of Refugee Resettlement will keep the boy in its custody until he is placed with a relative either in the US or Colombia, authorities said.
The Consulate of Colombia in Los Angeles said it was coordinating with family members in the US and the South American nation.