8 smuggling victims found dead in truck in San Antonio

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Eight people have been found dead in a truck outside a Walmart store in San Antonio, Texas, local officials say, calling it a horrific case of human trafficking. Others were seriously injured and rushed to area hospitals.

The incident happened at about 12:15 a.m. CT on Sunday when police were called to the parking lot of a Walmart store in the city’s southwest, where an employee came across someone who was disoriented and asking for water.

Responding police officers were led to an 18-wheeler which was parked in the store’s parking lot. After opening the trailer, they located dozens of people who were seriously injured and in need of medical treatment.

Police spokesman Sgt. Jesse Salame said 38 victims were found in and around the trailer, including 8 people who were pronounced dead at the scene. All of the victims are believed to have died as a result of heat exposure and asphyxiation, he said.

Multiple helicopters were called to the scene to transport some of the survivors, Fire Chief Charles Hood said. Seventeen people were rushed to area hospitals with life-threatening injuries and thirteen others were transported with non-life-threatening injuries.

Hood said the air conditioning in the trailer was not working and those inside had no access to water. “They were very hot to the touch .. so you’re looking at a lot of heatstroke, a lot of dehydration,” he said, adding that all of the survivors had heart rates of more than 130 beats per minute.

The identities of the victims were not immediately known but the injured include at least two children.

It was also unclear where the truck was traveling from or how many people were inside. Police Chief William McManus said the driver of the truck was arrested at the scene and is expected to face state and federal charges.

“When checking the video from the store, we found that there were a number of vehicles that came in and picked up a lot of the folks that were in that trailer that survived the trip,” McManus said, calling it a “horrific” case of human trafficking.

San Antonio is about 120 miles (193 kilometers) from the border with Mexico.

Investigators also believe that some of the survivors may have fled into a nearby wooded area. McManus said additional victims who are in need of medical treatment may have yet to be found and police are searching the surrounding area.

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