The tractor-trailer was pitch-black inside, crammed with 90 immigrants or more, and already hot when it left the Texas border town of Laredo for the 150-mile trip north to San Antonio, says the Associated Press. It wasn’t long before the passengers, including children, started crying and pleading for water. People took turns breathing through a single hole in the wall. They pounded on the sides of the truck and yelled to try to get the driver’s attention. Then they began passing out. By the time police showed up at a Walmart in San Antonio around 12:30 a.m. Sunday and looked in the back of the truck, eight passengers were dead and two more would soon die in an immigrant-smuggling attempt gone tragically awry.
The details of the journey were recounted Monday by a survivor who spoke to the AP. “After an hour I heard…people crying and asking for water. I, too, was sweating and people were despairing. That’s when I lost consciousness,” 27-year-old Adan Lara Vega told the AP from his hospital bed. The truck driver, James Matthew Bradley, 60, could face the death penalty over the 10 lives lost. He appeared in federal court Monday on charges of illegally transporting immigrants for financial gain, resulting in death. Records show Bradley has compiled a criminal record at least since 1997, with arrests in multiple states on charges including menacing others, assault, grand theft and escape. He mostly recently lived in Louisville, Ky., where his fiancee, Darnisha Rose, told the AP that Bradley had no idea how the immigrants got into his trailer. News reports say 18-wheelers are pitched to illegal immigrants as “VIP” rides north from the border.