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James Mathew Bradley Jr.

Survivor of Texas human-smuggling case says he knew the risks

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Updated July 25, 2017 07:48 AM EDT

An undocumented immigrant who survived being smuggled inside a tractor-trailer across the U.S.-Mexico border said he was aware of the dangers but took the risk because he needed to find work.

"When we arrived there, the trailer was already full," survivor Adan Lara Varga, 27, said Monday. "Frankly, I couldn't tell you how many people were actually there."

Officials said 39 people accompanied Varga on the trip. Ten people died and 29 people are being treated at hospitals, according to officials.

Officials said the deaths were caused by heat. Temperatures inside the truck rose to over 100 degrees.

Varga said he was not given water during the trip and added that when he "woke up" in the tractor-trailer he "wanted to run" but "felt kind of faint."

"I was very weak," he said.

Updated July 24, 2017 12:01 PM EDT

The driver of a tractor-trailer that was found packed with immigrants outside a Texas Walmart was charged Monday in connection with the deaths of 10 passengers.

Federal prosecutors charged James Matthew Bradley Jr., 60, of Clearwater, Florida, with illegally transporting the immigrants for commercial or financial gain. If convicted, he could face the death penalty.

According to a federal complaint, one of the passengers told authorities that people had to take turns breathing through a hole in the wall of the tractor-trailer.

Updated July 24, 2017 10:42 AM EDT

Another person who was found in a tractor-trailer packed with immigrants has died, bringing the death toll in the Texas smuggling case to 10.

Updated July 24, 2017 06:32 AM EDT

Federal prosecutors said James Mathew Bradley Jr., 60, of Clearwater, Florida, is expected to appear in federal court on Monday to face charges in connection with what Texas authorities are calling a human trafficking crime. It is unclear whether Bradley has obtained an attorney.

The local U.S. attorney's office has not said whether Bradley was the alleged driver of the tractor trailer.

Based on initial interviews with survivors, ICE acting Director Thomas Homan said more than 100 people may have been packed into the tractor-trailer at one point. When officials arrived on the scene, 39 people were inside and the rest, police say, may have escaped or hitched rides elsewhere.

Homan added that it is unlikely the truck was used to carry migrants across the border. He said those in the truck likely crossed the border on foot and were then picked up by the driver.

Mexican Consul General in San Antonio Reyna Torres said Mexican nationals were among the survivors and those who died. Additionally, a Guatemalan official said two nationals were among those hospitalized.

Updated July 23, 2017 05:58 PM EDT

At least one more person has died, bringing the death toll to nine, after authorities found nearly 30 people in the back of a tractor-trailer in a San Antonio Walmart parking lot, ABC 7 reported.

Authorities had originally found eight people dead and over 20 in critical condition, but Liz Johnson, spokeswoman for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said a ninth person died at the hospital.

Florida man James Bradly, 60, was taken into custody Sunday morning, but no charges have been filed.

"We're looking at a human-trafficking crime," Police Chief William McManus said.

Updated July 23, 2017 11:01 AM EDT

U.S. Attorney Richard Durbin responded to the Texas incident in a statement Sunday morning.

“They discovered an alien smuggling venture gone horribly wrong. Eight immigrants were found dead,” Durbin wrote. "All were victims of ruthless human smugglers indifferent to the well-being of their fragile cargo. The South Texas heat is punishing this time of year. These people were helpless in the hands of their transporters."

Additionally, Durbin vowed to work with the Department of Homeland Security to identify those responsible for this tragedy.

Updated July 23, 2017 09:29 AM EDT

San Antonio Fire Chief Charles Hood said many of the injured survivors who were rescued from a tractor-trailer parked outside a Texas Walmart were suffering from injuries such as heat stroke and dehydration.

The high in San Antonio reached 101 degrees on Saturday.

"They were very hot to the touch. So these people were in this trailer without any signs of any type of water," Hood explained. Hood added that the incident was treated as a "mass casualty situation."

Police are now calling this a "horrific case of immigrant smuggling."

The Associated Press contributed to this update.

Eight people were found dead in a tractor-trailer outside a Walmart in San Antonio, Texas, late Saturday night.

San Antonio Police Chief William McManus told our affiliate KABB that a Walmart employee called police to conduct a welfare check after a person from the truck asked for water. When police arrived, they discovered eight bodies in the back of the trailer. Two of the victims are believed to be children, according to police.

"We're looking at a human trafficking crime this evening," McManus said.

San Antonio Fire Chief Charles Hood said 30 survivors were taken to local hospitals. He added that 20 of those transported were in extremely critical or serious condition.

After reviewing surveillance video, investigators determined that other vehicles had picked up people from the tractor-trailer.

"The driver and whoever else we find is involved in this will be facing state and federal charges," McManus said.

The driver of the truck, who has not yet been identified, is in custody. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security is assisting with the investigation.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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