Eight bodies were found in the back of a tractor-trailer truck in the parking lot of a San Antonio, TX Walmart in the early hours of July 23, The New York Times reported on Sunday.
Police described the incident as an apparent "human trafficking crime".
A frightful incident has left at least eight people dead and 20 more in "extremely severe" or critical condition, in what police are calling a human trafficking crime. First responders say they had to treat it as a mass-casualty situation.
"He was approached by someone from that truck who was asking for water", San Antonio Police Chief William McManus said at a press conference.
At some point, somehow, one of the passengers got out of the trailer and asked a Walmart employee for water.
"We're looking at a human trafficking crime here", McManus said.
The US Department of Homeland Security is assisting in the investigation. They were stuffed in a trailer with more than a hundred people in it near Victoria, southeast of San Antonio.
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Back in May of 2003, 19 immigrants died as they were being transported from Southern Texas to Houston. Thirty-eight people were in the trailer. A search overnight did not locate any additional victims, but police said they would conduct a second aerial search once daylight broke. Officials still don't know where the truck came from and where it was headed but cautioned that this was "not an isolated incident" and residents should keep their eyes peeled.
Others in the trailer survived long enough to be rescued and taken to a local hospital. In 2012,15 people died in a crash near Goliad in a truck packed with people desperate to cross the border.
"We are very fortunate that there weren't 38 people who were locked inside of this vehicle dead", he said.
The driver was arrested, officials said.
Tractor-trailer in San Antonio containing over 30 people. "Eight immigrants were found dead", Richard L. Durbin Jr., the us attorney for the Western District of Texas, wrote in a statement released by federal immigration authorities on Sunday morning.
The tragedy has shined a fresh spotlight on the often deadly conditions that desperate migrants endure at the hands of smugglers and human traffickers.
The driver of the truck was arrested and could face federal and state charges, ABC News reports. "You can see that it happens late at night under darkness because they don't want to be discovered". In one of the deadliest cases on record in the U.S., 19 immigrants locked inside a stifling rig died in Victoria, Texas, in 2003.