Eight people were found dead and 30 others injured, inside a semitrailer overnight in a Walmart parking lot in San Antonio, Texas, in what officials are describing as a “human trafficking crime.”
At a press conference at the scene early Sunday morning, local police and fire officials said the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Immigration and Customs Enforcement has also been called in to help investigate.
In addition to the dead, authorities said 17 people in the truck were taken to area hospitals in serious condition, and another 13 were transported with less severe injuries. Many suffered from heat stroke and dehydration. The group in the truck included adults in their 20s and 30s, and at least two young children.
The driver of the truck, who was not identified, was arrested and could federal and state charges.
“We’re looking at a human trafficking crime here,” McManus said.
San Antonio Fire Chief Charles Hood, who stood alongside McManus at the press conference, said firefighters arrived on the scene at 12:26 a.m., and began pulling the people out of the truck, which had no working air conditioning. In a phone interview with CNN later in the morning, Hood said all of the dead were adult males and that some may have suffered brain damage from the intense heat conditions inside the truck.
Authorities said they are investigating where the truck arrived from, and said they don’t yet know how long it had been parked. But surveillance video from the store showed that a number of vehicles entered the parking lot and “picked up lots of folks that were in that trailer that survived the trip,” McManus said.
Some of the people who had been in the truck ran into the woods, he said. The area was searched, and another attempt will be made in the morning.
While he called it a “horrific tragedy,” the police chief said the discovery “is not an isolated incident. This happens quite frequently … fortunately there are people who survived, but this happens all the time,” he said.