Federal agents questioned 16 illegal immigrants in an attempt to find the driver who smuggled them through Texas.
The box truck they were in broke down around 9:30 p.m. Thursday on the Sam Houston Tollway near Westpark Drive in southwest Houston.
A tow truck driver pulled over to help and noticed the people in the back of the truck.
When investigators arrived, the driver, his female passenger and at least one of the people from the back of the truck ran.
The man from the back of the truck was found hiding in a ditch.
The driver and female passenger got away. Deputies used K-9 officers, helicopters and ground teams to search for them.
Precinct 5 deputies said the immigrants were tired, hungry and dehydrated. Investigators said the immigrants told them that they the were in the back of the box truck for more than 18 hours.
Some of the deputies went to a nearby store to buy food and water for the immigrants.
All 16 of the immigrants admitted they were in the country illegally from El Salvador, Guatemala and Mexico, detectives said.
The 14 adult immigrants were handed over to Immigrations and Customs Enforcement officers for processing. The two juvenile immigrants were turned over to the Office of Refugee Resettlement.
Investigators said they believe the driver of the truck was a coyote who was paid to transport those immigrants.