SAN ANTONIO – Eight people are dead and another 30 people were taken to area hospitals after they were found trapped in the trailer of an 18-wheeler in a Wal-Mart parking lot early Sunday morning.
A Wal-Mart employee called San Antonio police late Saturday night after a man approached him asking for water near a parked 18-wheeler in the store’s parking lot.
"(The employee) came back with the water, called the police, and we arrived on scene and found eight people dead in the back of that trailer," SAPD Chief William McManus said at a media briefing.
McManus said first responders found 38 people inside the 18-wheeler's trailer, with the possibility of several others fleeing to nearby woods before they arrived at the scene.
San Antonio Fire Department units were called shortly after 12:30 a.m. to the Wal-Mart, located at 8358 Interstate 35 South on the city’s southwest side, and found the people inside the trailer.
Seventeen patients were transported on priority 1 status (life threatening injury/illness) and 13 others were taken to area hospitals with priority 2 status (not immediately life-threating), officials said.
Police Chief William McManus and Fire Chief Charles Hood briefing on tractor trailer found with multiple deceased after being smuggled inside. 8538 IH35SPosted by San Antonio Police Department on Sunday, July 23, 2017
SAFD Chief Charles Hood said AirLife and the department’s mobile mass casualty transportation vehicle were both used to transport patients from the scene to area hospitals.
Hood said first responders monitored the individuals inside the trailer and were “hot to the touch,” pointing signs of heat stroke and dehydration.
Among the 38 individuals that were found inside, at least two were school-age children.
McManus said the majority of the people were found to be in their 20s and 30s but will determine ages and genders at a later time.
“Checking the video from the store, we found a number of vehicles that came in and picked up a lot of the folks that were in that trailer (who) survived the trip," McManus said. “We are looking at a human trafficking crime.”
A search of the surrounding area was conducted for those who may have fled the scene and officials said they will conduct another search at first sight of daylight.
SAPD has an unidentified individual in custody that is believed to be the driver of the semi-truck and will be facing state and federal charges, McManus said.
McManus said officers are looking at the store’s surveillance footage and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials will investigate further into the mass casualties incident.
This is a developing story. Stay with KSAT 12 on-air and online for the latest developments.
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