Chicago (AFP) – The head of US homeland security says the deaths of nine people inside an overheated truck packed with migrants in Texas shows the “brutality” of smugglers.
The migrants were discovered in the early morning hours Sunday in a truck parked in a Walmart lot in San Antonio, a city that is a two-hour drive from the US-Mexico border. Nine people died and 30 were hospitalized.
In a statement released Monday, Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly called the deaths “senseless,” and the result of a human trafficking “network of abuse and death.”
At least 39 people were crammed in the trailer with a broken refrigeration system, which was parked in the baking Texas heat.
Eight people were already dead when authorities discovered the migrants and one later died at a hospital. All the fatalities were reportedly adult men.
At least 17 others — including two school-age children — were in critical condition, suffering from heat stroke and dehydration, authorities said.
“This tragedy demonstrates the brutality of the network of which I often speak. These smugglers have no regard for human life and seek only profits,” Kelly said.
“The Department of Homeland Security and its partners in the U.S., Mexico and Central America will continue to root out these smugglers, bring them to justice and dismantle their networks.”
Kelly has been to Mexico twice to discuss immigration, human trafficking and the sprawling cross-border drug trade.
Authorities arrested the truck’s driver, who federal prosecutors identified as James Mathew Bradley Jr, 60, of Florida. He was in custody and was to be charged Monday in San Antonio.
The migrants were discovered when someone from inside the truck approached a Walmart employee asking for water.
The employee brought water to the truck and then called police, authorities said, adding that they were uncertain how many people might have fled from the truck and were unaccounted for.
Authorities were not releasing the victims’ names or nationalities until their families were notified.