Sus­pect due in court af­ter 9 die in swel­ter­ing trac­tor-trailer in Texas

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - WORLD -

SAN ANTONIO, Texas — Nine peo­ple are dead and the death toll could rise af­ter emer­gency crews pulled dozens of peo­ple from a swel­ter­ing trac­tor-trailer found parked out­side a Wal­mart in the mid­sum­mer heat, vic­tims of what of­fi­cials said was an im­mi­grant-smug­gling at­tempt gone wrong.

The driver was ar­rested, and nearly 20 oth­ers taken from the rig were hos­pi­tal­ized in dire con­di­tion, many with ex­treme de­hy­dra­tion and heat­stroke, of­fi­cials said on Sun­day.

“We’re look­ing at a hu­mantraf­fick­ing crime,” said San Antonio Po­lice Chief Wil­liam McManus, call­ing it “a hor­rific tragedy”.

Fed­eral pros­e­cu­tors said James Mathew Bradley Jr, 60, of Clear­wa­ter, Florida, was taken into cus­tody and would be charged on Mon­day in fed­eral court. The lo­cal US At­tor­ney’s Of­fice wouldn’t say whether Bradley was the al­leged driver of the truck who was ar­rested.

San Antonio is about a 240kilo­me­ter drive from the Mex­i­can bor­der. The tem­per­a­ture in San Antonio reached 38 C on Satur­day and didn’t dip be­low 32 C un­til af­ter 10 pm.

These kinds of hor­rific tragedies are oc­cur­ring with shock­ing fre­quency in San Antonio, which has be­come a cen­ter of hu­man smug­gling and traf­fick­ing.

One US of­fi­cial said on Sun- day that 17 of those res­cued were be­ing treated for in­juries that were con­sid­ered lifethreat­en­ing.

Au­thor­i­ties found eight peo­ple dead in­side the truck. A ninth vic­tim died at the hos­pi­tal, said Liz John­son, spokes­woman for US Im­mi­gra­tion and Cus­toms En­force­ment.

The vic­tims “were very hot to the touch. So these peo­ple were in this trailer with­out any signs of any type of wa­ter,” San Antonio Fire Chief Charles Hood said.

Au­thor­i­ties would not say whether the trailer was locked when they ar­rived, but they said it had no work­ing air con­di­tion­ing.

It was just the lat­est smug­gling-by-truck op­er­a­tion to end in tragedy. In one of the worst cases on record in the United States, 19 im­mi­grants locked in­side a sti­fling rig died in Vic­to­ria, Texas, in 2003.

Based on ini­tial in­ter­views with sur­vivors of the San Antonio tragedy, more than 100 peo­ple may have been packed into the back of the 18-wheeler at one point in its jour­ney, ICE act­ing Di­rec­tor Thomas Ho­man said.

Of­fi­cials said 39 peo­ple were in­side when res­cuers ar­rived, and the rest were be­lieved to have es­caped or hitched rides to their next des­ti­na­tion.

Four of the sur­vivors ap­peared to be be­tween 10 and 17 years old, Ho­man said. In­ves­ti­ga­tors gave no de­tails on where the rig be­gan its jour­ney or where it was headed.

ERIC GAY / AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Peo­ple at­tend a vigil for vic­tims who died as a re­sult of be­ing trans­ported in a trac­tor-trailer in San Antonio, Texas, on Sun­day.

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