Authorities in San Antonio, Texas, found a semi-truck at a Walmart parking lot with eight dead migrants in the trailer, and nearly 20 others were taken to the hospital in serious condition. The temperature in the city rose above 100 degrees on Saturday, and it’s believed the migrants were held in the back while human traffickers slowly moved groups away. There was no air conditioning in the trailer, and many migrants suffered heat stroke.
The migrants were discovered after someone who escaped from the truck approached a Walmart employee and asked for water. The employee returned with the water, then called the police. Paramedics arrived at about 12:30 a.m. Sunday and they found about 38 migrants in all. Of the survivors, many had heart rates above 130 beats per minute. The air conditioning in the trailer was not working when authorities arrived, and some survivors are expected to have brain damage from the extreme temperature. Among those found were two children, the youngest 15; the others were in their 20s and 30s. “These people were helpless in the hands of their transporters,” U.S. attorney for the Western District of Texas, Richard Durbin Jr., said. “Imagine their suffering, trapped in a stifling trailer in 100-plus-degree heat.”
The truck’s driver was arrested and will likely be charged, Durbin said. The Washington Post reported that the truck was owned by an Iowa company that rents out trucks to independent drivers. The owner told the Post the man from Louisville, and that this was his first trip in the truck.
Authorities didn’t release details about the victims, or their countries of origin, but they’re believed to be migrants smuggled up from Mexico. San Antonio is a little more than two hours north, along Interstate 35, a trafficking route. It’s not yet known how long the truck was in the Walmart parking lot, but surveillance video showed several vehicles approve the truck and pick up migrants. “This is not an isolated incident,” fire chief Charles Hood said, “this happens quite frequently. Fortunately, we came across this one. Fortunately, you know, there are people who survived.”
Authorities said what most likely what happened was that the migrants crossed the U.S.-Mexico border on foot. They were probably picked up in and put in the trailer truck, then taken to the Walmart parking lot where they would board other vehicles headed further north. There have been several other similar incidents like this in the past. In April, Border Patrol stopped a man trying to smuggle 10 people in the back of a rental truck. Earlier this month, in Houston, about a dozen migrants were rescued from a truck that’d been locked and left for 12 hours in a parking lot. Police were called after someone heard the migrants banging on the inside of the truck’s walls.