Driver charged after 10 die in sweltering tractor trailer

The death count in the human smuggling case out of San Antonio has reached 10, and dozens more remain hospitalized. Today the driver of the sweltering 18-wheeler in which those people were found made his first court appearance.

James Matthew Bradley Jr. was the driver of that truck and is now formally charged with the illegal transport of immigrants for financial gain. He could end up facing the death penalty for what police discovered in his trailer at a San Antonio Walmart parking lot.

The criminal complaint paints an alarming picture of the journey these people took in their effort to reach a new life in America.

In court documents released Monday, James Matthew Bradley Jr maintains he never knew what was inside the trailer his boss assigned him to haul from Schaller, Iowa to Browsville, Texas. But his description of what he saw when opening the hatch is gruesome. "Bodies laying on the floor like meat," he described. And he says he was "run over by Spanish people." 

Police say everyone inside was undocumented. One survivor tells police there were as many as "200 people in the trailer" at one point.

"There were a number of vehicles who came in and picked up a lot of the folks who were in that trailer that survived the trip," San Antonio Police Chief William McManus said.

Another survivor in the hospital admits agreeing to pay $5,500 to be transported to San Antonio, having journeyed from Mexico by paying men linked to the Zeta cartel—a gang the U.S. government has called one of the most sophisticated and ruthless in Mexico.

The survivor describes the inside of the trailer as pitch black and hot, with no food or water. Bradley admits "the refrigeration system in the trailer did not work." Those inside are said to have been taking turns breathing from a single ventilation hole.

In May 2017, Governor Greg Abbott signed Senate Bill 128, which provides information to the trucking industry on how to recognize and report signs of human smuggling and trafficking. Lt. Governor Dan Patrick agrees, these crimes must stop.

"All those people stuffed in the back of that trailer truck, this is not by happen stance, this is organized," Lt. Governor Patrick said.

In a statement today Governor Gregg Abbot expressed condolences and added that, “Texas will continue to provide protection for the victims who have been robbed of their most basic rights, and bring down the full weight of the law for the perpetrators of this despicable crime."

At this time close to three dozen individuals remain in the hospital

Up Next:

  • Popular

  • Recent

More from FOX 26 Houston