After autopsies on refugees found in truck, Austrian police presume they suffocated

Reuters News
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Posted: Aug 30, 2015 8:48 AM

VIENNA (Reuters) - Forensic examiners have performed autopsies on 16 of the 71 bodies of refugees found dead in an abandoned refrigeration truck on an Austrian highway and presumed they suffocated, Austrian police said on Sunday.

A baby girl and three other children were among the dead found in the back of the truck which was discovered on Thursday on the highway from the Hungarian border to Vienna, where it had been dumped 24 hours earlier. The refugees are presumed to have been from Syria or possibly Afghanistan.

Two pathologists were working around the clock on the bodies which are being kept at the Vienna forensic department.

"We are still awaiting the final report from the forensic team, but it looks like they have suffocated," said Gerald Pangl, police spokesman in the province of Burgenland where the truck was found.

Pangl added that the refugees were so crammed in the back of the truck that almost 5 people had to share on square meter.

Police said earlier that the vehicle designed for the transportation of meat products had no air holes. However, technical specialists were still in the process of establishing whether a cooling unit was operational and had been running at the time of the transport, Pangl said.

Hungarian police said on Sunday they had arrested a fifth suspect, a Bulgarian citizen, in connection with the deaths and under suspicion of human trafficking.

In a separate incident in Austria on Friday, a Romanian was arrested after 26 refugees, including three critically ill children, were found in the back of a van he as driving in a small town close to the German border.

Two of the three children were one year old, while the third was five years old, police said. They had initially given the ages of the children as five and six years.

(Reporting by Karin Strohecker; Additional reporting by Marton Dunai in Budapest; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)