(SAN ANTONIO) — An undocumented immigrant who survived a trip across the U.S.-Mexico border in a tractor-trailer packed with people said he knew the trip would be dangerous, but he made the journey anyway because he needed to find work.
A total of 39 people, including children, were found inside the tractor-trailer parked outside a San Antonio, Texas, Walmart this weekend, officials said. Ten people, all adult men, died in the alleged smuggling attempt, and 29 people were being treated at hospitals, according to officials.
Temperatures inside the vehicle climbed to over 100 degrees, officials said.
The truck was discovered early Sunday morning by San Antonio firefighters and police after a Walmart employee called late Saturday for a welfare check when someone asked the employee for water, officials said.
The responding authorities “discovered an alien-smuggling venture gone horribly wrong,” U.S. Attorney Richard Durbin Jr. of the Western District of Texas said in a statement.
“All were victims of ruthless human smugglers indifferent to the well-being of their fragile cargo,” he said. “The South Texas heat is punishing this time of year. These people were helpless in the hands of their transporters. Imagine their suffering, trapped in a stifling trailer in 100-plus-degree heat.”
A criminal complaint alleges that when a San Antonio police officer responded to the scene, the driver, James Mathew Bradley Jr., 60, exited the tractor-trailer and told the officer that the trailer he was hauling had been sold, and he was taking it from Iowa to Brownsville, Texas. Bradley told the officer he was unaware of the contents, the criminal complaint said.
The criminal complaint alleges Bradley did “knowing or in reckless disregard of the fact that aliens had come to, entered or remained in the United States in violation of law, transport and move and attempt to transport and move such aliens for the purpose of commercial advantage of private financial gain … and approximately 36 others within the United States by means of transportation and otherwise, in furtherance of such violation of law resulting in the death of approximately 10 of the aliens so transported.”
Bradley told the officer he was unaware of the contents, the criminal complaint said.
Bradley also told the officer “after he parked his tractor trailer he exited the vehicle to urinate when he heard movement in the trailer. Bradley said he then went to the rear of the trailer and opened the door. Bradley stated he tried to administer aid to the occupants,” according to the document.
Bradley, of Clearwater, Florida, made his first appearance in federal court Monday; he did not make any statements beyond saying “yes” to the judge as she explained the charges and that he would also need a death penalty attorney. Bradley has a court-appointed attorney, who declined to comment.
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