Nine people are dead and several others were taken to local hospitals after authorities in San Antonio, TX, discovered 39 migrants locked in a semitrailer at a Walmart parking lot early Sunday morning. Authorities say the victims were left in a truck without air conditioning in the sweltering heat.
In an early morning press conference, San Antonio Fire Chief Charles Hood said emergency responders transported 20 victims in critical or very severe condition to seven local hospitals. Ten others were transported with less critical injuries. All of them had heart rates over 130 beats per minute, Hood said.
Eight of the victims died in the truck due to heat exposure and asphyxiation, a spokesman for the San Antonio Police Department said, according to The New York Times. The ninth died at a hospital.
Among the victims are two schoolchildren, although Hood did not say if they are among the fatalities. The other victims, Police Chief William McManus said, are in their 20s or 30s.
McManus said the driver of the truck, who was at the scene when police arrived, was taken into custody. Authorities later identified him as James M. Bradley Jr., 60, of Clearwater, FL.
According to McManus, one person managed to make it out of the trailer and approached a Walmart employee to ask for water. While bringing water, the employee discovered the truck packed with overheated victims and called police.
The San Antonio–Express News reported that the group found in the trailer was part of a larger group of about 100 migrants smuggled across the border from Mexico.
The parking lot where the victims were discovered is about a 2.5-hour drive from the Mexican border.
Some of those who were in the truck fled to a nearby wooded area, and police said they would conduct a search at daybreak Sunday morning.
Both local and federal authorities, including from the Department of Homeland Security and Immigration and Customs Enforcement have opened an investigation into human trafficking and multiple homicides.
“It was a mass casualty situation for us,” Hood said. “The truck was loaded with people.”
Update: Authorities have revised the death toll from 10 to 9, citing a hospital error. The story has been updated with this number, along with the total number of victims found in the trailer and the cause of death.