Trapped im­mi­grants wept, pleaded for wa­ter

Peo­ple locked in­side trac­tor-trailer on a hot Texas day pounded on walls

The Denver Post - - NEWS - By Frank Ba­jak and Nomaan Mer­chant

SAN ANTONIO» The trac­tor-trailer was pitch-black in­side, crammed with maybe 90 im­mi­grants or more, and al­ready hot when it left the Texas bor­der town of Laredo for the 150-mile trip north to San Antonio.

It wasn’t long be­fore the pas­sen­gers, sweat­ing pro­fusely in the ris­ing oven-like heat, started cry­ing and plead­ing for wa­ter. Chil­dren whim­pered.

Peo­ple took turns breath­ing through a hole in the wall. They pounded on the sides of the truck and yelled to try to get the driver’s at­ten­tion. Then they be­gan pass­ing out.

By the time po­lice showed up at a Wal­mart in San Antonio around 12:30 a.m. Sun­day and looked in the back of the truck, eight pas­sen­gers were dead and two more would soon die in an im­mi­grant-smug­gling at­tempt gone trag­i­cally awry.

The de­tails of the jour­ney were re­counted Mon­day by a sur­vivor who spoke to The As­so­ci­ated Press and in a fed­eral crim­i­nal com­plaint against the driver, James Matthew Bradley, who could face the death penalty over the 10 lives lost.

“Af­ter an hour I heard ... peo­ple cry­ing and ask­ing for wa­ter. I, too, was sweat­ing and peo­ple were de­spair­ing. That’s when I lost con­scious­ness,” 27-year-old Adan Lara Vega said from his hos­pi­tal bed.

Bradley, 60, of Clear­wa­ter, Fla., ap­peared in fed­eral court on charges of il­le­gally trans­port­ing im­mi­grants for fi­nan­cial gain, re­sult­ing in death. He was or­dered held for an­other hear­ing Thurs­day.

He did not en­ter a plea or say any­thing about what hap­pened.

But in court pa­pers, he told au­thor­i­ties he didn’t re­al­ize any­one was in­side his 18wheeler un­til he parked and got out to re­lieve him­self.

In ad­di­tion to the dead, nearly 20 oth­ers res­cued from the rig were hos­pi­tal­ized in dire con­di­tion, many suf­fer­ing from ex­treme de­hy­dra­tion and heat­stroke.

Some of those aboard were from Mex­ico and Gu­atemala.

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