The death toll in the human trafficking incident in San Antonio has gone up to at least 9. Several other people are in serious condition and there are fears that the death toll may go up in the coming days.
According to reports, the 18 wheeler tractor trailer might have brought as many as 100 people hailing from several nationalities including Mexico, Columbia, besides others. Around two dozen people are still in hospital, while the driver of the truck has been taken into custody. His identity is yet to be revealed by authorities.
In the meantime reports suggest that several other people may also be arrested in the coming days who are part of the extensive immigrant smuggling within the US. The tractor-trailer was found parked outside a San Antonio Walmart.
Officials claim that the people who were rescued from the rig were hospitalized in life-threatening condition — many with extreme dehydration and heatstroke, officials said.
San Antonio Police Chief William McManus said it seemed to be a clear case of human trafficking and described the incident as “a horrific tragedy.” The Walmart employees who first saw the 18-wheeler parked in their parking lot alerted the authorities who found the deceased inside tractor-trawler. One of the victims died at the hospital.
Officials claim that there may be as many as 100 undocumented immigrants crammed inside the back of the 18-wheeler during the journey.
San Antonio Police Chief William McManus said, “Checking the video from the store, we found there were a number of vehicles that came in and picked up a lot of the folks that were in that trailer that survived the trip…We are looking at a human trafficking crime here.”
San Antonio Fire Chief Charles Hood was quoted by the CNN as saying, “We quickly called a ‘mass casualty incident’ and had about 29 units arrive out there and start transporting people…With heat strokes or heat injuries, a lot of them are going to have some irreversible brain damage.”
Officials claim that the inside of the tractor trawler was so hot that it was not humane to survive. According to officials, the air conditioner in the trailer was not working. And the high temperature in San Antonio on Saturday was 100 degrees Fahrenheit. “Unfortunately, some of them were severely overheated, and that was a refrigerated truck with no refrigeration…So the inside of the truck was just austere condition that nobody was going to survive in it. So we were very fortunate that they were found”, Hood said.
A CBSNews report said a few people who are able to respond told the officials that they were from Mexico. The same report said that Guatemala’s foreign ministry, has said that least two Guatemalans were on the abandoned rig.
Meanwhile a person identified as James Mathew Bradley Jr., 60, of Clearwater, Florida has been taken into the custody. Officials said he was taken into custody and would be charged on Monday. Nonetheless, a Fox News report said that the officials wouldn’t confirm if Bradley was the alleged driver of the truck.