A tenth victim found inside a stifling tractor-trailer that was discovered packed with immigrants outside a Walmart in San Antonio, Texas during the weekend died overnight, federal prosecutors said Monday.
The driver of the truck, 60-year-old James Matthew Bradley, Jr., has been charged with transporting illegal aliens in an alleged human smuggling case.
Here’s what we know so far about how the incident and how it unfolded.
Someone from the truck approached a Walmart employee and asked for water late Saturday night or early Sunday morning, San Antonio Police Chief William McManus said. The employee gave the person water and then called police.
San Antonio police officers responded to the Walmart “shortly after midnight” Sunday, according to a Department of Justice (DOJ) release.
A police officer saw “a number of people standing and lying in the rear of the trailer, and the driver, Bradley, in the cab,” it said. Bradley said he didn’t know the trailer had people inside, that he “discovered them only when he exited the vehicle to relieve himself” and he tried to administer aid, according to the release.
San Antonio police said that they “found eight deceased persons and 30-40 others, all undocumented aliens,” it said.
The temperature in the Texas city hit 101 degrees on Saturday and didn’t go below 90 degrees until after 10 p.m. The truck didn’t have working air conditioning, San Antonio Fire Chief Charles Hood said.
What do we know about the people in the truck?
Eight bodies were found by authorities inside the 18-wheeler, while another two people died at the hospital. The ten dead victims are adult men, San Antonio Patch reported.
Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Special Agents spoke to some of the people who had been in the trailer, who “described how they had been smuggled across the Rio Grande River near Laredo at different times and as part of different groups,” the DOJ release said, adding that the groups were gathered in the trailer Sunday.
“To maximize their criminal profits, these human smugglers crammed more than 100 people into a tractor trailer in the stifling Texas summer heat resulting in ten dead and 29 others hospitalized,” Acting ICE Director Thomas Homan said in a statement.
Officials said 39 people were inside when rescuers arrived, and the rest were believed to have escaped or hitched rides to their next destination.
Two of the seven people who arrived at University Hospital in San Antonio on Sunday have been discharged, spokesman Don Finley said. Finley said four men and one woman remain at the hospital, in conditions ranging from good to critical.
At the San Antonio Military Medical Center on the Fort Sam Houston Army post, spokeswoman Elaine Sanchez said all five patients admitted to the hospital Sunday remain in treatment.
None of the patients admitted to various Baptist Health System hospitals in San Antonio have been discharged, spokeswoman Patti Tanner said.
A spokesman for Guatemala’s Foreign Ministry said one of the victims who died was 20-year-old Frank Guisseppe Fuentes Gonzales. Two other Guatemalans, ages 17 and 23, survived and were said to be in stable condition.
Survivor Adan Lalravega, 27, said he lost consciousness while sweating profusely without water inside the pitch-black compartment without any ventilation — and awoke in a San Antonio hospital bed.
Lalravega told The Associated Press on Monday that people cried and pleaded for water and that he heard children’s voices whimper. He said smugglers who hid him and six friends in a safe house in Laredo, Texas, claimed they’d be riding in an air-conditioned space.
The trip from Laredo to San Antonio is about two hours. Lalravega said he and his friends got in the trailer between 10 and 11 p.m. He also said that he never saw the truck driver and was never offered water. He said they were being charged $5,500 for the trip and the money was never collected.
Four of the migrants found alive in the tractor-trailer come from Calvillo, Mexico.
What about the driver?
Bradley, Jr., of Clearwater, Fla., has been charged with one count of transporting illegal aliens, according to the DOJ, which said a “federal alien smuggling charge” was filed against Bradley.
Bradley was questioned by authorities and claimed to have been “traveling from Laredo to San Antonio, after having the tractor-trailer washed and detailed at a truck stop near Laredo,” according to the DOJ release.
Bradley said he was taking the truck to its new owner in Brownsville, Texas, the criminal complaint said.
Bradley claimed he heard “banging and shaking in the trailer” when he got out of the cab at the Walmart, and he told investigators “he went to open the doors and was surprised when he was run over by ‘Spanish’ people and knocked to the ground,” the complaint added.
Bradley said he saw bodies on the floor and that he knew at least one person was dead, according to the complaint. Bradley said he contacted his wife, who didn’t pick up, but that he didn’t contact 911, the document said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.