His dangerous journey began in Mexico, where he left home in search of a better life in the U.S. It ended in a Walmart parking lot in San Antonio, surrounded by death.
An undocumented immigrant identified only by his initials J.M.M-J in a criminal complaint provided a harrowing account of the events that lead to the deaths of 10 men in a sweltering tractor-trailer.
The hospital interview was detailed by Homeland Security Agent James Lara.
The immigrant’s doomed trip began in Aguascalientes, Mexico. The final destination was San Antonio.
“Once he arrived in San Antonio, Texas he was to pay the smuggler $5,500.”
He reached the Rio Grande with other immigrants.
“He waited with a group of 28 people until 8 p.m. to be smuggled across the river into the United States. He was told by the smuggler that people linked to the Zetas would charge 11,000 Mexican pesos ($621) for protection and 1,500 Mexican pesos ($85) to cross by raft since the river ran deep in that area. The money was collected and his group crossed the river by raft in three trips. Once across they walked until the next day.”
He soon laid eyes on the trailer that would become a tomb.
“The next day at about 9 a.m. his group was picked up by a silver Chevrolet Silverado truck and taken to the trailer that he later traveled in. He stated his group was the last of a larger group that was already inside. He estimated that there were already about 70 people inside. He was told to get inside and he would be transported later that evening. The smugglers closed the door and the interior of the trailer was pitch black and it was already hot inside. He stated they were not provided with any water or food. People inside were making noise to get someone’s attention but nobody ever came.”
The trailer finally began to roll.
“Later at about 9 p.m., someone opened the rear door of the trailer and told them that they would be leaving and provided each group with a different color tape to identify to the waiting smugglers which group they would be picking up at the destination. The man also told them that the trailer had refrigeration and not to worry about the trip.”
The truck was not air conditioned.
“During the first hour of transportation, everyone seemed to be OK. Later, people started having trouble breathing and some started to pass out. People began hitting the trailer walls and making noise to get the driver’s attention. The driver never stopped. People had a hole in the trailer wall to provide some ventilation and they started taking turns breathing from the hole.”
The truck reached a Walmart parking lot in San Antonio, where the immigrants were to be turned over to other smugglers.
“Upon arriving, the driver braked hard and people inside the trailer fell over because they were so weak. The rear doors opened and people started to swarm out. Six black SUVs were waiting to pick up the people. The SUVs were full in a matter of minutes and left right away. He did not see who had opened the doors and did not see who the driver of the semi was.”
Authorities found 39 people in or near the truck early Sunday.
Eight died inside the trailer — two others died at a hospital.
At least 20 were suffering from severe dehydration and heat exposure, officials said.
The alleged driver of the truck, James Matthew Bradley Jr., 60, faces one count of transporting illegal aliens.