Clearwater man arrested after 10 die in back of hot semi in Texas

Deadly smuggling attempt has Florida ties

SAN ANTONIO - SAN ANTONIO (AP) - The Latest on several people found dead in the back of a tractor-trailer in a Walmart parking lot in Texas (all times local):

SAN ANTONIO (AP) - The Latest on the deaths of 10 people whose bodies were found in a roasting tractor-trailer in a Walmart parking lot in San Antonio, Texas (all times local):

10:50 a.m.

A federal complaint says immigrants packed into a tractor-trailer discovered outside a Texas Wal-Mart were taking turns breathing through a hole in the trailer and pounding on the walls to get the driver's attention.

According to a complaint filed Monday, a passenger in the trailer told investigators that he and others who had crossed the U.S.-Mexico border illegally were guided into the trailer to be taken north to San Antonio.

The complaint says passengers appeared fine during the first hour of their journey, but people later began to struggle to breathe. They were trying to get the driver's attention, but to no avail.

Federal prosecutors on Monday charged James Matthew Bradley with illegally transporting the immigrants for commercial or financial gain, resulting in the deaths of 10 people inside.

              

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10:30 a.m.

Federal authorities in Texas have charged the driver of a tractor-trailer with transporting immigrants in the U.S. illegally, an incident resulting in the death of 10 people.

A complaint filed Monday accuses James Matthew Bradley of driving a trailer packed with immigrants for "commercial advantage or private financial gain." The charge carries the possibility of the death penalty.

              

Bradley is expected to appear Monday morning in San Antonio.

Authorities fear the death toll could rise because many of those rescued from the sweltering truck in San Antonio have been hospitalized with extreme dehydration and heatstroke.

              

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9:30 a.m.

Federal authorities say a 10th person has died after being discovered in the back of a sweltering tractor-trailer in Texas.

Prosecutors said in a statement Monday that the person died at a hospital. Nearly 20 others were hospitalized in dire condition after they were found in the truck outside a San Antonio Walmart early Sunday.

              

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9 a.m.

              

Federal prosecutors say a man arrested following the deaths of nine people in a hot tractor-trailer outside a Texas Walmart will be charged Monday.

Prosecutors say 60-year-old James Mathew Bradley Jr., of Clearwater, Florida, was taken into custody at the weekend after the bodies were discovered alongside nearly 20 more people in dire condition in the San Antonio parking lot. He will appear in federal court in San Antonio on Monday.

The U.S. Attorney's Office haven't said Bradley was the alleged driver of the truck and prosecutors haven't outlined the charges he will face.

              

Authorities fear the death toll from the grim weekend discovery could rise because many of those hospitalized were suffering from extreme dehydration and heatstroke.

San Antonio Police Chief William McManus calls the deaths a "human-trafficking crime."

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12:07 a.m.

A 60-year-old man who was arrested after authorities say at least nine people died in the back of a sweltering tractor-trailer found outside a Walmart in San Antonio is due in federal court.

Federal prosecutors say James Mathew Bradley Jr. of Clearwater, Florida, will be charged on Monday.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement acting Director Thomas Homan says the truck driver is in custody, but the local U.S. Attorney's Office wouldn't say whether Bradley was the alleged driver who was arrested.

Officials say nearly 20 other people rescued from the back of the rig early Sunday were hospitalized in dire condition, many with extreme dehydration and heatstroke.

Foreign officials from Mexico and Guatemala confirmed people from those countries were found in the abandoned tractor-trailer.

           
8 p.m.
           
A Mexican official says some Mexican nationals were among the survivors and those who died on a tractor-trailer found at a San Antonio Walmart.

           
Mexican Consul General in San Antonio Reyna Torres says officials are working to identify the survivors and notify family members. Torres says the consulate has been in contact with relatives both in Mexico and the U.S.
           
Guatemala's foreign ministry, meanwhile, says at least two Guatemalans were on the abandoned rig.
           
Tekandi Paniagua, communications director for the foreign ministry, says the two male survivors told Guatemalan consulate officials that they crossed the border by foot at Laredo and boarded the tractor-trailer. They told officials their final destination was Houston.

The Associated Press reported seventeen people believed to be involved in a smuggling operation, are now facing life-threatening injuries after being found in a hot semi-trailer Sunday morning.  A Clearwater man who authorities say was behind the wheel is now in custody.

The apparent smuggling operation involving undocumented immigrants came to a tragic conclusion   when emergency responders found dozens of people in distress inside a hot semi-trailer at a Walmart in southwest San Antonio.  

The death toll has risen to nine in the smuggling tragedy. Eight people were dead at the scene early Sunday morning. One more died during the day at a San Antonio hospital.

Thomas Homan, acting director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said there may have been more than 100 people in the truck. Only 38 were found inside the trailer and one in the wooded area nearby. Officials believe the rest left the scene.

 

 

Homan said some survivors have identified themselves as Mexican nationals. Four of the passengers are believed to be between 10 and 17 years old, and at least one of them is in serious condition.

San Antonio Fire Department Chief Charles Hood reported that 17 people were transported to hospitals with life-threatening injuries, one of whom has since died, and another 13 had non-life-threatening injuries.

Early Sunday morning, an employee at the Walmart encountered a person who was disoriented and asking for water, San Antonio Police Chief William McManus said. The person said that there were people who needed help inside the trailer outside the store, which is located at I-35 and Highway 16 on the city's southwest side.

 

 

When police arrived on the scene around 12:30 a.m. Sunday, they detained the driver immediately. The United States Attorney's Officer identified the driver as 60-year-old James Matthew Bradley Jr. of Clearwater, Florida. Bradley is being held in federal custody in connection with this incident. 

Bradley is expected in court Monday.

Officials searched the trailer to find several people in various stages of medical distress. At least 29 fire units and two AirLIFE choppers responded to the scene to take care of the victims.

Nicole Perez, who lives behind the Walmart off Fairmeadows Street, watched the scene unfold through her back window.

"It was maybe 1:30 and we heard back to back cops, ambulances, fire trucks, helicopter," said Perez. "We came outside and the helicopter was going around in circles."

Norma Ogden lives across I-35 and woke up to the sirens.

"The sirens just kept going and going. It was nonstop. I thought to myself, this is something really bad," said Ogden.

The 17 victims with life-threatening injuries were taken to University Hospital and San Antonio Military Medical Center. The 13 victims with non-life threatening injuries were taken to five other area hospitals.

Officials said the eight found dead in the truck are believed to have died as a result of heat exposure/asphyxiation. Their bodies were taken to the Bexar County Medical Examiner's Office to be examined so a cause of death can be determined. The Attorney's Office said all of the deceased were adult male.

McManus called the incident a "horrific tragedy." He said store surveillance video showed a number of vehicles arriving at the parking lot and picking up people who had been in the trailer. Police were working to identify those vehicles.

McManus said the trailer appeared to be a smuggling operation. He said the people in the trailer would be reviewed by ICE agents to determine their immigration status. Also, it was announced later Sunday morning that the Department of Homeland Security was taking the lead on the investigation of the incident.

Facebook Live from the scene

 

The San Antonio Fire Department released the following statement:

"Shortly after 12:30AM (Central) the San Antonio Fire Department responded to 8358 IH-35 S. for 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. A total of 8 individuals were deceased upon our arrival. 17 patients were transported priority 1 (life threatening injury / illness) and 13 were transported priority 2 (not immediately life threatening). Air ambulances (AirLife), and the SAFD Ambus (mobile mass casualty transportation vehicle) were also both utilized to transport the multitude of patients we encountered. A search of the surrounding area was also conducted to attempt to locate any patients that may have attempted to flee the scene. An additional search will be conducted later this morning once the sun has risen. All questions relating to the potential criminal aspect of this should be directed to the San Antonio Police Department."

 

Richard L. Durbin, Jr. United States Attorney, Western District of Texas released the following statement:

"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.

The South Texas heat is punishing this time of year. These people were helpless in the hands of their transporters.  Imagine their suffering, trapped in a stifling trailer in 100-plus degree heat. The driver is in custody and will be charged. We will work with the Homeland Security Investigations and the local responders to identify those who were responsible for this tragedy."

San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg released the following statement:

“We are still learning about the tragic events that unfolded on our doorstep overnight, which shines a bright light on the plight of immigrants looking for a better life and victims of human trafficking. As we work to coordinate a humanitarian and legal response to this terrible tragedy, I find comfort in the compassionate response of our first-responders, our local medical professionals and the outpouring of support from our community. I want to thank the Wal-Mart employee who provided water and called 911, an act that helped us prevent more deaths.
 
We will continue to work closely with local groups and federal agencies to offer support to the survivors and connect them with their families. Our thoughts and prayers go out to everyone who was impacted by this terrible loss of life. Our response should serve as a lesson to the world that San Antonio will not turn its back on any man, woman or child in need.”

Walmart released the following statement:

“This is a very sad situation, and we are doing everything we can to assist the authorities.”

Homeland Security is leading the criminal investigation. The driver faces both state and federal charges, police said.

© 2017 KENS-TV


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