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Asylum-seeker mother and 10-year-old daughter found dead in desert near Yuma

Mom, daughter die after crossing border
Posted at 10:08 PM, Sep 01, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-02 17:03:38-04

YUMA, AZ — A 37-year-old Colombian mother and her 10-year-old daughter collapsed in the Yuma desert and were found dead from heat exposure after crossing the border to seek asylum last Wednesday.

According to federal authorities, the mother was traveling with two kids - a 10-year-old-girl who didn’t make it and the other was a two-year-old boy who was found alive next to his mother’s body.

According to the C5i, the 911 communication center in Sonora, the mother, and daughter are believed to have died from heat exposure.

Experts say migrants and their children are at a higher risk of dying from heat exposure, severe dehydration, and hyperthermia in the Arizona desert.

The C5i center located in San Luis Rio Colorado, bordering Yuma was the first to get the 911 call.

Oftentimes their cell towers get 911 calls from people in America first and have for years collaborated with the U.S. Border Patrol to help rescue migrants.

C5i captured the heartfelt audio from the mother in distress before they were found by border patrol. They shared part of the 911 call with ABC15:

Operator: How many people are there with you?

Caller: Three, two children. Please help me, I'm going to faint.

Child: Mommy, I’m hungry

“She informed us she only had 3% battery left. We obtained her coordinates and immediately contacted the Border Patrol Yuma sector," said State Coordinator Guadalupe Lares-Núñez.

According to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, agents from CBP’s Air and Marine Operations (AMO) Yuma Air and Marine Branch and U.S. Border Patrol (USBP) Yuma Sector responded to the 911 call.

The family of three was located on the Cocopah Reservation. According to a spokesperson for the Cocopah Tribal Police Department, they were involved in only a portion of the investigation and determined no foul play was involved.

“She mentioned she was transported from Tijuana to Mexicali then taken to the desert where the 'coyote’ abandoned her,” said C5i coordinator Ricardo Sarabia.

Sarabia manages the 911 call center in San Luis Rio Colorado in Sonora, Mexico. He says the temperature was 113 degrees when they found the mother and two children.

“We want to bring awareness to others because this is what human smugglers do, they lie, and they abandon people in the desert. Many times, people are not used to the high temperatures out here in the desert,” stated Sarabia.

My daughter said: "No dad, I really want to see you."

ABC15 interviewed Victor Hugo Morales, the father of the two children.

“I love them with all my heart, to my daughter: I really wanted to make your wish come true to see the ocean.”

Morales lives in Florida where he’s been for years fleeing death threats in Colombia. He fled his home country before his wife, who he identified as Claudia Marcela Pineda-Sarmiento, found out she was pregnant with their second child.

He last heard from her and their daughter on Wednesday when she still had 25% phone battery left.

“I told her to go back, she said, ‘No, that she was already there.’ Then my daughter said: ‘No dad, I really want to see you.’”

Morales says his wife and their two children were trying to find a border patrol agent to show their paperwork and request asylum. He believes she got lost trying to find someone.

“To people trying to reach the American dream, don’t do it, not like that,” expressed Morales.

Morales has received his daughter and wife’s bodies and now wants to see his two-year-old son, to be able to hug him for the very first time. He asks to honor his wife as a great woman who gave everything for a better life for their children.

According to U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the two-year-old child is now under the custody of the Office of Refugee Resettlement pending reunification with an appropriate adult relative.