Immigrants trapped in the back of a sweltering tractor-trailer in Texas said they shared one air hole and banged on the trailer’s walls to try to get the driver’s attention.
Investigators said that based on interviews with the survivors, more than 100 people were inside the trailer as it reached 100 degrees Fahrenheit outside.
When the truck stopped in San Antonio on Sunday and the doors were opened, eight people were dead and dozens others were injured, some of whom have “irreversible brain damage,” the San Antonio city’s fire chief said. Two others died after hospitalization.
Still more ran into the woods near the Walmart departmental store’s parking lot where the vehicle stopped.
The driver of the truck, James Matthew Bradley, appeared in federal court Monday on charges he illegally transported immigrants for financial gain, resulting in death.
Bradley didn’t enter a plea in court, saying he was unaware anyone was inside the trailer until he stopped at the Walmart in San Antonio to use the restroom. That’s when he opened the doors to the trailer and “was run over by Spanish people and knocked to the ground.”
He said he saw “bodies just lying on the floor like meat.”
When police arrived at the parking lot, an officer found “multiple people standing and laying at and around the rear of the trailer,” a criminal complaint against Bradley said.
The court document said Bradley told an officer he had been transporting the trailer from Schaller, Iowa, to Brownsville, Texas, for his boss to sell to a new owner, but he was unaware of the delivery address. Later he said he was traveling from San Antonio to Laredo, Texas.
123 arrested in immigration sweep across Texas
Meanwhile, Immigration officials arrested 123 people in an eight-day sweep across Central and South Texas, Immigration and Customs Enforcement told media Friday.
The agency conducted the operation between July 10-19, arresting people in Austin, Harlingen, Laredo, San Antonio and Waco.
Ninety-three of those targeted had prior criminal convictions ranging from aggravated assault to domestic violence, ICE said. The rest had immigration violations.
Among the arrested were 102 from Mexico, 13 from Honduras, five from Guatemala, and one each from El Salvador, Jamaica and Cuba. There were 115 men and eight women.