Nine undocumented immigrants who were among dozens stuffed in a stifling truck in Texas have died, authorities said Sunday.
The truck may have held up to 100 people before it was abandoned in a Walmart parking lot in San Antonio, officials said.
Cops originally discovered eight dead in the rig after one person escaped and begged a Walmart worker for water early Sunday, said officials. Two more succumbed to their injuries hours later.
Another 18 victims were in “extremely severe’’ condition and likely to suffer permanent brain damage in the “smuggling venture gone horribly wrong,’’ according to San Antonio US Attorney Richard Durbin Jr.
The driver of the truck was taken into custody, San Antonio Police Chief William McManus said in a statement. Homeland security is also involved.
There were 38 people — including two 15-year-olds — trapped in the refrigeration truck-turned-coffin, which lacked air conditioning amid a day of 100-degree temperatures Saturday.
It remains unclear how long the truck was parked in the lot, but authorities say they think internal temps reached an unbearable 130 degrees.
Medical examinations are pending, but the eight dead are believed to have perished from exposure, asphyxiation, and dehydration, according to a statement from the SAPD.
The surviving 29 have been transferred to area hospitals for treatment.
Thomas Homan, acting director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, says some of the survivors have indicated they were coming from Mexico.The victims’ country of origin, destination, or ages remain unknown, though official interviews with survivors seem to indicate there may have been as many as 100 people in the truck at one point. The unaccounted for are believed to have fled.
Durbin blasted those responsible as “ruthless human smugglers indifferent to the well-being of their fragile cargo.”
The truck driver faces both state and federal charges. He was not authorized to be driving in the state of Texas at the time.
Authorities have not said whether the rig was locked when cops arrived, or whether it was used to smuggle the nearly 40 people across the border into the US. San Antonio is some 150-miles from the Mexican border. Its also not clear where it was headed.
“They 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 in a statement. “We are very fortunate that there weren’t 38 people who were locked inside of this vehicle dead.”
Credit: NY Post