Trapped immigrants wept, pleaded for water
People locked inside tractor-trailer on a hot Texas day pounded on walls
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.