Community comes together to remember San Antonio smuggling victims

By Sophia Beausoleil - Reporter, Syan Rhodes - Anchor/Reporter

HOUSTON - A man who was smuggled from the border inside a sweltering tractor-trailer said even though he knew it would be risky, he was willing to take his chances to come to America.

"It's hard over there, so then one takes the decisions," said Adan Lara Vega in Spanish.

The 27-year-old is from Aguascalients, Mexico. He said there were no jobs back home.

He was one of the dozens of undocumented immigrants found crammed inside a truck parked at a San Antonio Walmart on Thursday.

"I woke up. I looked around everywhere, and I woke up and wanted to run but I felt kind of faint, so I fell," Vega said in Spanish, from his San Antonio hospital bed. "I was very weak. I needed to be drinking only liquids to be able to control myself."

Different survivors have given different numbers, but Vega said he believes there were 100 people inside the truck he was in.

STORY: 10th person dies after dozens found in sweltering big rig

WATCH: Human smuggling tragedy in San Antonio: What happens to survivors?

The driver of the truck, James Matthew Bradley Jr., 60, of Clearwater, Florida, appeared in federal court Monday to face charges of illegally transporting immigrants for financial gain, resulting in death.

Bradley told investigators that the trailer had been sold and he was transporting it from Iowa to Brownsville, Texas, and that he was unaware that there were people inside until he parked at Walmart in San Antonio and got out to urinate.

After hearing banging and shaking, he opened the door and was "surprised when he was run over by 'Spanish' people and knocked to the ground," according to the complaint.

Vega said the other undocumented immigrants did not receive water or food and people had made a hole in the wall of the trailer to take turns breathing.

Houston community gathers for change

A local immigrants rights group called for change to the nation's immigration policies during a vigil Tuesday night for the victim's of the deadly San Antonio smuggling.

About 50 people gathered outside the southwest Houston offices of FIEL Houston.

They mourned those lost and those still fighting for their lives.

"What desperation what situations must people be going thru in their home countries to risk everything for the American dream?" asked Cesar Espinosa.

The group said the tragedy should call attention to the need for comprehensive immigration reform so no one else has to die.

Memorial

People in San Antonio have created a memorial in the parking lot of the Walmart where the undocumented immigrants were found inside the broiling-hot tractor trailer.

In total, 10 people died.

"A trailer full of people that are literally trapped in an oven. Basically, that's what it was," said Freida Huizar-Wright, who placed a teddy bear at the memorial. "I'm saddened for their families and the grief that's going to be felt throughout."

Along with symbols of faith, teddy bears, candles and flowers, people also placed water bottles at the makeshift memorial. It's a stark reminder of one of the factors that contributed to why the people died.

People treated

University Hospital is one of the seven medical centers in San Antonio to which survivors were taken.

Officials said doctors were treating four men and a woman for heat-related injuries and that their conditions range from good to critical.

 

 

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