Driver charged in smuggling-related deaths of illegal aliens

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TEXAS — The driver of an overheated tractor-trailer found crowded with illegal aliens outside a Walmart in San Antonio on Sunday was charged in the deaths of 10 of his passengers and could face the death penalty in one of the deadliest human smuggling cases in recent history.

James Matthew Bradley Jr., the driver of the tractor-trailer, was due in court Monday to face charges of illegally transporting immigrants for financial gain, resulting in death. Bradley was hauling as many as 100 people in an unrefrigerated tractor-trailer in the broiling Texas heat.

According to authorities, eight bodies were discovered among the throng in the trailer, which was parked in the summer heat. Two more victims later died at the hospital. Nearly 20 others found in the compartment remain in critical condition, many suffering from extreme dehydration and heatstroke.

“We’re looking at a human-trafficking crime,” San Antonio Police Chief William McManus said Sunday, calling it “a horrific tragedy.”

Authorities declined to say whether the trailer was locked when they arrived, but they did confirm that it had no working air conditioning.

Fire Chief Charles Hood said that the victims “were very hot to the touch. So, these people were in this trailer without any signs of any type of water.”

Thomas Homan, acting director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said that, at one point in Bradley’s travel, more than 100 people might have been packed into the trailer. When rescuers arrived, 39 people were inside, with the rest believed to have escaped or hitchhiked elsewhere.

Diplomats from Mexico and Guatemala have confirmed some of the people in the trailer were from their countries. Homan reported that four of the survivors appeared to be between the ages of 10 and 17.

On Saturday, the temperature in San Antonio reached 101 degrees and did not fall below 90 degrees until after 10 p.m. at night.

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