Eight people were found dead early Sunday inside a sweltering trailer at a Walmart parking lot in southwest San Antonio, and dozens more suffered from heat-related injuries in a suspected human trafficking operation, police and fire officials said.
Police made the tragic discovery after a man managed to get out of the truck and ask a Walmart employee for water, San Antonio Police Chief William McManus said. Some of the passengers escaped into a nearby wooded area as police opened the trailer, McManus said.
Inside the trailer, authorities found survivors suffering from heatstroke and dehydration.
“They were very hot to the touch,” Fire Chief Charles Hood said.
The truck’s air conditioning had stopped working, and there was no sign of water in the trailer, Hood noted.
Authorities said at least two children were among those found inside the trailer.
Police Chief William McManus and Fire Chief Charles Hood briefing on tractor trailer cab found with multiple deceased after being smuggled in the cab. 8538 IH35S
Posted by San Antonio Police Department on Sunday, July 23, 2017
The parking lot is located at the intersection of Interstate 38 and Highway 16, about 130 miles from the Mexico border.
Temperatures in the south Texas city had reached triple-digits Saturday amid a days-long heat wave.
It’s unclear where the truck came from or how long it had been parked at the Walmart.
Surveillance footage showed several vehicles approaching the trailer to pick up survivors, police said.
First responders treated the discovery as a mass-casualty incident, taking 20 people to hospitals in serious and critical condition. Eight more people were treated for less severe injuries, officials said.
McManus said police arrested the truck driver, who was not immediately identified.
Once the passengers have received medical treatment, police said they will be handed over to the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency.
“This is not an isolated incident. This happens quite frequently,” McManus said during a press briefing.
“Fortunately, we came across this one. Fortunately, there are people who survived.”