By Kevin Byrne, AccuWeather staff writer
July 24,2017, 2:38:13PM,EDT
Authorities uncovered a gruesome scene in San Antonio, Texas, over the weekend when they found eight people dead in the back of a sweltering tractor-trailer at a Walmart parking lot. At least 38 people total had been crammed inside the trailer.
A ninth victim died at a nearby hospital on Sunday, and at least 20 people were hospitalized in ‘dire’ condition due to dehydration and heat stroke, the Associated Press reported. The 10th fatality was confirmed Monday morning, officials told My San Antonio.
In a press conference early Sunday morning, San Antonio Police Chief William McManus called the incident a "horrific tragedy" and said police were investigating a "human-trafficking crime."
McManus added that the driver of the truck was in custody and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security was involved in the investigation.
The AP reported Monday that the driver, James Matthew Bradley Jr., 60, was charged in the deaths of the 10 immigrants and could face the death penalty.
San Antonio Fire Chief Charles Hood said some of the victims were "very hot to the touch" and had been locked in the trailer with no signs of water and the air conditioning was not working.
Highs over the weekend in San Antonio hovered near 100 degrees Fahrenheit, with lows dipping only into the mid-70s.
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Police were alerted to the scene either late Saturday or early Sunday when a person from the truck asked a Walmart employee for some water. The employee then called the police. It’s unclear how long the truck had been parked in the lot, but officials said they were reviewing surveillance video.
"By any standard, the horrific crime uncovered last night ranks as a stark reminder of why human smuggling networks must be pursued, caught and punished," Thoma Homan. acting director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said in a statement on Monday. "These networks have repeatedly shown a reckless disregard for those they smuggle, as today’s case demonstrates.
A similar smuggling case occurred in 2003, in which 19 people were killed near Victoria, Texas. The driver in that case was sentenced to 34 years in prison, the AP reported.