A horrible incident has left at least eight people dead and 20 more in “extremely severe” or critical condition, in what police are calling a human trafficking crime.
Eight bodies were found in the back of a tractor-trailer truck in the parking lot of a San Antonio, TX Walmart in the early hours of July 23, The New York Times reported on Sunday. They are believed to have died of heat exposure and asphyxiation in the back of the truck in the Texas heat, which reached a scorching 100 degrees Fahrenheit on Saturday. The truck held at least 38 people, according to authorities, and some occupants may have fled.
Some of those found in the truck were children.
At least two “school-age” children were among the group, The Times reports, and the youngest injured individuals were 15 years old.
The survivors were found by a Walmart employee who heard someone from the truck asking for water, and called the police, according to CNN. Paramedics and firefighters arrived around 12:30 am.
The driver has been arrested, according to San Antonio police, and will be facing state and federal charges. There were no details on where the truck had come from, or how long it had been in the parking lot.
The survivors have been spread around seven hospitals in the San Antonio area. After the survivors are treated, authorities said, they will be investigated by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
There is no confirmation of the truck's origin, but smuggling undocumented migrants across borders on trucks is a common method of human trafficking between South and Central America and the United States, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNDOC). The organization also notes that many migrants are abused during the smuggling process and made to endure severe conditions, or even die.
A spokesman for Customs and Border protection told The Times that the people in the truck were likely migrants who had crossed the Mexican border on foot before getting in the truck.