A truck driver charged for alleged smuggling operation
A truck driver has been charged for alleged smuggling operation that left 10 people dead. The driver, 60-year-old James Bradley Jr. from Florida, has been a suspect in the incident involving a trailer filled with illegal immigrants and was discovered in the parking lot of Walmart in San Antonio, Texas.
According to authorities, the driver could face life in prison or the death penalty as there were fatalities.
The incident, took place on July 22 and involved 100 immigrants trapped in a semi-trailer with no air-con or ventilation, while the weather outside was high. The immigrants were discovered after a Walmart employee heard someone asking for water from the trailer. The employee called the police and when they arrived they discovered 8 people dead and 20 more in a critical condition. They were all hospitalized after suffering from heatstroke and exhaustions and the authorities fear that the death toll might rise.
According to the criminal complaint filed against the driver, he told investigators that he was driving the truck from Schaller, Iowa to Brownsville in Texas and he wasn’t aware that anyone was inside the trailer.
However, conflicted reports are surfacing, by which Bradley said that he noticed the trailer moving when he stopped and when he opened he discovered the immigrants and he knew that there were dead people inside. But he panicked and did not called the police.
There is also a video surveillance, showing cars coming to the parking lot and picking up people from the trailer.
The authorities charged Bradly with “commercial advantage or private financial gain”, but refused to give more details until the investigation is over.
The truck was registered to Pyle Transportation Inc., from Schaller, Iowa. A comment from the company rejects any involvement with this case and they say that Bradley was an owner-operator doing one-time load with the company.
This is the latest smuggling by truck operation to end in tragedy. The worst case on record in the U.S. was when 19 immigrants locked inside a truck died in Victoria, Texas in 2003.
This incident sparks another immigration debate in Texas, as immigrant rights advocates blame the tragedy on the harsher immigration policies enacted since President Trump came to office. They say that immigrants now are using riskier methods to enter the U.S.
Based on initial interviews with the immigrants, more than 100 people have been packed into the back of the trailer at one point of the trip. There was 39 people when discovered. Some of the immigrants were from Mexico and Guatemala and four of the survivors are between 10 and 17 years old. According to the investigators it is unlikely the truck was carrying the immigrants across the border, as people who rely on smuggling networks typically cross the border on foot and then they are picked up by a driver.
A vigil was held Sunday night by groups that support immigrants in San Antonio. “We’ll be praying for the survivors, praying that they are able to recover and be okay,” said Amy Fischer, policy director for RAICES, a nonprofit group that provides legal services for immigrants in central Texas.
What will happen to the survivors once they are released from the hospital has not been decided.