On Sunday morning, at least ten illegal immigrants crammed into a tractor-trailer died as a result of the brutally hot temperature in San Antonio, where the heat reached 101 degrees on Saturday.
The tractor-trailer was parked outside a Walmart; 20 other immigrants were inside. According to one U.S. official 17 of the 20 other survivors were being treated for life-threatening dehydration and heatstroke.
The driver was arrested.
San Antonio Police Chief William McManus said, “We’re looking at a human-trafficking crime,” adding the situation was “a horrific tragedy.” San Antonio Fire Chief Charles Hood said the victims “were very hot to the touch. So these people were in this trailer without any signs of any type of water.”
Eight victims died at the scene; two more died at the hospital. All of the deceased were adult males.
ICE acting Director Thomas Homan said that initial interviews with survivors indicated that over 100 people might have been crammed into the back of the 18-wheeler at one point in its journey. 39 people were inside when the tractor-trailer was opened, those not treated or dead fled the scene.
Four of the survivors appeared to be between 10 and 17 years old Homan added that it was unlikely the truck was being used to carry the immigrants across the border illegally.
Federal prosecutors said James Mathew Bradley Jr., 60, of Clearwater, Florida, was taken into custody, but would not confirm if he was the driver. The truck was registered to Pyle Transportation Inc. of Schaller, Iowa.
The tragedy came to light after a person from the truck approached a Walmart employee in the parking lot and asked for water late Saturday night or early Sunday morning, said McManus, the local police chief. The employee gave the person water and then called police, who found the dead and the desperate inside the rig. Some of those in the truck ran into the woods, McManus said.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott released a statement:
The loss of these lives is a heartbreaking tragedy. Human trafficking is an epidemic that Texas is working to eradicate. To that end, Texas will continue to provide protection for the victims who have been robbed of their most basic rights, and bring down the full weight of the law for the perpetrators of this despicable crime.