A truck driver may face the death penalty, after a smuggling operation of undocumented immigrants goes horribly wrong. Firefighters were called to the parking lot of a San Antonio Walmart just after midnight to investigate a report of “multiple people in the trailer portion of an 18 wheeler. First arriving units found a number of people in the back of this trailer all in varying degrees of medical distress,” according to a statement by U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Texas Richard Durbin.
James Mathew Bradley Jr., 60, of Clearwater, Florida, has been charged with illegally transporting immigrants for financial gain resulting in death, which can potentially carry the death sentence if convicted. A total of 38 undocumented individuals were found smuggled in the back of a piping hot trailer he parked in a Walmart parking lot.
Eight people died inside Bradley’s trailer. Two later died in the hospital. While, the 28 other undocumented persons have been transported to a local medical center to treat heart-related illnesses resulting from the hot smuggling operation. Seventeen victims had life-threatening injuries while thirteen others suffered from non-life threatening injuries.
The eight people who died on the scene were said to have passed away from heat exposure/asphyxiation according to police.
“San Antonio firefighters and police responded to a horrific scene this morning on the southwest side of town. They discovered an alien smuggling venture gone horribly wrong. Eight immigrants were found dead. At least twenty more were in serious condition. All were victims of ruthless human smugglers indifferent to the well-being of their fragile cargo,” said Durbin.
The ages of the surviving victims mostly include 20-30 old undocumented persons and two school children. Acting ICE Director Thomas Homan told the Associated Press that some victims claim to have originated from Mexico. According to interviews with the survivors, more than 100 people are believed to have been smuggled inside that truck at some point.
“Late last night we got a call from a Walmart employee to conduct a welfare check on a tractor trailer that was parked in the lot here. He was approached by someone from that truck who was asking for water,” San Antonio Police Chief William McManus said at a press conference. “He came back with the water, called the police, we arrived on the scene and found 8 people dead in the back of the trailer.”
The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Texas released a statement reporting that Bradley claims he didn’t know anyone was inside his truck.
“An officer encountered a tractor-trailer behind the store, finding a number of people standing and lying in the rear of the trailer, and the driver, Bradley, in the cab. Bradley said he was transporting the trailer from Schaller, Iowa, to Brownsville, Texas,” the statement said. “He denied knowing there were people in the trailer, and discovered them only when he exited the vehicle to relieve himself. He said he attempted to administer aid to them.”
One complaint states that Bradley didn’t call 911 even after witnessing several dead smuggled people lying inside his trailer. Bradley claims to have only discovered the victims after he had returned from relieving himself. He claims that he was startled when he opened the trailer, as Spanish-speaking people poured out, knocking him to the floor.
On Saturday, temperatures exceeded 100 degrees outside, and the air conditioner was not functioning inside the trailer. One passenger told authorities that he paid $5,500 for the trip across the border from Mexico to the United States. According to another passenger, the smuggled people took turns breathing through a hole in the truck.