Arizona Morgue Prepares for Migrant Deaths

PHOTO: Freezer at the Pima County Medical Examiners Office in Tucson. It was built to handle the overflow of bodies as the summer heats up and migrants begin to die.

TUCSON, Ariz. — In Southern Arizona, medical examiners and federal immigration agents are preparing for another year of dozens of deaths in the desert as people try crossing the border illegally.

This year, officials say, they’ve developed a map showing exactly how many people have died in their attempts over the years.

The massive door to the freezer slides open at the Pima County Medical Examiner’s Office. The freezer was built to handle the overflow of bodies brought here, people who died from heat stroke and dehydration as they tried walking through the desert. It’s used in the summer.

So far this year 47 migrants have died.

"Typically in June we’ll go up to 20. July in 2010 we had 55,” said Dr. Gregory Hess, the medical examiner.

The remains of those who are not identified are eventually cremated. It has led to mysteries and confusion as remains pile up. So Hess and local volunteers at Humane Borders have published a digital map people can use to sort through who has been found in the desert and where.

By Michel Marizco Freezer at the Pima County Medical Examiner's Office in Tucson. It was built to handle the overflow of bodies as the summer heats up and migrants begin to die.

"You can search by cause of death, you can search by location, you can search by age, you can search by gender," Hess said.

The map will be made available to the public on Monday.

Every year, about 240 people crossing the border into Arizona are found dead. Some of those people are never identified. The map, Hess said, may help put a name this summer to some of the remains in the freezer.

Click below for more from Fronteras:

Read more from the public media collaboration Fronteras: The Changing America Desk at

Join the Discussion
You are using an outdated version of Internet Explorer. Please click here to upgrade your browser in order to comment.
blog comments powered by Disqus
You Might Also Like...
See It, Share It
PHOTO: Firefighters rescue a woman who got stuck in a chimney in Thousand Oaks, Calif.
Ventura County Fire Department
PHOTO: Up in Ash: Mount Sinabung Erupting
Tibt Nangin/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images
PHOTO: Defendant Jodi Arias testifies about killing Travis Alexander in 2008 during her murder trial in Phoenix, Feb. 20, 2013.
Charlie Leight/The Arizona Republic/AP Photo
PHOTO: Attendees gather during an Apple special event at the Flint Center for the Performing Arts, Sept. 9, 2014 in Cupertino, California.
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images