On Aug. 26, a 911 call was received from a woman who was feeling ill after prolonged exposure to a strong heat wave that hit while she crossed the U.S.-Mexico border. The woman was Claudia Marcela Peña, a Colombian who had left her country with her two children to meet her husband.
She had left her country "on Saturday, Aug. 21 to go to Mexico. On Tuesday morning, she traveled to Tijuana by plane and that same day she traveled to Mexicali by land where, supposedly, a 'coyote' was going to take her to the border," according to one of her cousins, who spoke to the Colombian radio station, Blu Radio.
When she made it to U.S. territory, the woman could not continue, and that's when she decided to call the emergency number. The call was received by the Control, Command, Communication, Computing, Coordination and Intelligence Center (C5i) in Sonora.
"Please help me...I'm fainting," was heard in the audio shared with Univisión Arizona by the call center. In the background, one of her children is heard saying: "Mom I'm hungry."
The patrol sent her a text message via Whatsapp to try to locate her, but was unsuccessful because her cell phone had no battery. When emergency services arrived at their location, the bodies of the woman and her 11-year-old daughter were found dead.
Her three-year-old son, who, although exhausted, was found alive and transported to a Phoenix hospital.
The Colombian Foreign Affairs Ministry has informed that the child "will be in the custody of a center for minors in California until it is defined with whom he would remain in the United States or if he must return to Colombia."
Although the causes of death have not been confirmed, it appears that mother and daughter could not have withstood the intense temperatures, and there were no signs of violence at the scene.
Deaths in the desert
The Arizona desert is notorious for the danger it poses to migrants attempt to enter the United States on a daily basis.
In 2019, for example, U.S. authorities found 153 dead bodies in the desert and during the first five months of 2021, 81 deaths were reported, according to the nonprofit Compassion Without Borders.
The Border Patrol issued a warning about the deadly risk of entering the Arizona desert, especially on days when temperatures are expected to rise above 110 degrees Fahrenheit.