A 33-year-old Mexican woman died while being treated at a Southern Arizona hospital last weekend, nearly two weeks after local law enforcement found her on the ground in Rio Rico, suffering from heat-related illness and dehydration.
The woman, whose identity was not released, was under U.S. Border Patrol custody at the time of her death on Saturday, Oct. 26, according to a U.S. Customs and Border Protection news release.
“U.S. Customs and Border Protection is saddened to report that the individual succumbed to her injuries while still in the hospital,” the news release states.
Dr. Gregory Hess, chief medical examiner for Pima County, confirmed on Tuesday that the woman died “as a result of complications from dehydration.”
Deputies with the Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Office found the woman Oct. 13 on Calle Cipres on the west side of Rio Rico after receiving a call about a person lying on the side of the road, spokesman Sgt. Santiago Gonzales said.
“She was displaying signs of some type of heat injury. She indicated that she had been walking for several days, and had not eaten or drank anything,” Gonzales said. “She was only speaking in Spanish and it was hard for her to communicate just based on the pain and condition that she was in.”
The woman was lying on or near an ant hole and was covered in ants, Gonzales said.
The Sheriff’s Office called the Tubac Fire District for additional assistance, which then transported the woman to a local hospital for further medical attention.
“We were dispatched for just general weakness. It was a sick person call, basically,” TFD Chief Cheryl Horvath said, adding that the district couldn’t release more information. “We just know the symptoms that we deal with and we treat for that, so we wouldn’t necessarily render a diagnosis.”
The Sheriff’s Office also contacted the Border Patrol, which assumed formal custody of the woman while she was in the hospital.
Gonzales added that the Sheriff’s Office frequently receives calls from or about people who need help after being lost in the desert without food or water for days.
“It is quite common that we get these calls,” he said. “They basically contact us in distress and ask us for assistance. That’s just a result of being out in the desert for days and sometimes, even weeks.”
It wasn’t clear how many of the people involved in those calls end up suffering severe injury or death. But so far in 2019, one other suspected border-crosser – a 39-year-old man whose mummified remains were found east of Nogales on April 19 – has been found dead in Santa Cruz County, according to a migrant death map maintained by the organization Humane Borders in corroboration with the Pima County Medical Examiner’s Office.