Authorities in San Antonio found eight people dead in a hot tractor-trailer early Sunday, in what the police chief called a "horrific" human-trafficking crime.
Twenty others who also were in the trailer were taken to area hospitals, some by helicopter, in very serious or extremely critical condition, San Antonio Fire Chief Charles Hood said at a news conference. Another eight individuals were treated for less serious dehydration, he said. Paramedics reported that people had high heart rates and were hot to the touch, suffering from heat stroke and dehydration, he said.
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The trailer's nearly 40 occupants included at least two school-age children, along with adults who appeared to be in their 20s and 30s, he said. "The truck was loaded with people," he said.
"We're looking at a human trafficking crime here," San Antonio Police Chief William McManus said.
The driver of the truck, parked outside a Wal-Mart store, is in custody, he said. Late Saturday, a Wal-Mart employee was approached by someone asking for water, he said. The employee brought water to the truck and then called police.
The trailer wasn't air-conditioned and rescuers saw no sign occupants had access to water, Mr. Hood said.
The Wal-Mart's surveillance camera shows that a number of vehicles had earlier arrived to pick up some of the people who were in the trailer and survived the trip, Mr. McManus said.
He said authorities didn't yet know where the truck began its journey and that the Department of Homeland Security is aiding the investigation. The truck's driver, whom he didn't identify, and anyone else found to be involved would face state and federal charges, he said, while the individuals in the trailer will be investigated by immigration authorities.
"This is not an isolated incident; this happens quite frequently," Mr. McManus said, referring to human trafficking. "It happens late at night, under darkness."
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(END) Dow Jones Newswires
July 23, 2017 09:18 ET (13:18 GMT)