Thu | Nov 23, 2017

Trucker charged with 10 deaths in immigrant-smuggling case

Published:Tuesday | July 25, 2017 | 12:00 AM
James Mathew Bradley Jr. (left) arrives at the federal courthouse for a hearing yesterday in San Antonio. Bradley was arrested in connection with the deaths of multiple people packed into a broiling tractor-trailer.

SAN ANTONIO (AP):

The driver of a broiling tractor-trailer found packed with immigrants outside a Walmart in San Antonio was charged yesterday in the deaths of 10 of his passengers and could face the death penalty over the hellish journey.

In outlining their immigrant-smuggling case against James Matthew Bradley Jr., 60, federal prosecutors depicted the trailer as pitch-black, crammed with around 90 people or more by some estimates, and so suffocatingly hot that one passenger said they took turns breathing through a hole and pounding on the walls to get the driver's attention.

Bradley appeared in federal court on charges of illegally transporting immigrants for financial gain, resulting in death. The Clearwater, Florida, man was ordered held for another hearing on Thursday.

He did not enter a plea or say anything about what happened. But in court papers, he told authorities he didn't realize anyone was inside his rig until he parked and got out to relieve himself.

Over the weekend, authorities discovered eight bodies inside the crowded 18-wheeler parked in the summer heat, and two more victims died at the hospital. Nearly 20 others rescued from the rig were hospitalized in dire condition, many suffering from extreme dehydration and heatstroke.

At least some of those aboard were from Mexico and Guatemala, authorities said.

Bradley told investigators that the trailer had been sold and he was transporting it for his boss from Iowa to Brownsville, Texas. 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 criminal complaint.

Bradley told investigators that he knew the trailer refrigeration system didn't work and that the four ventilation holes were probably clogged. He also said he did not call 911, even though he knew at least one passenger was dead.

The truck was registered to Pyle Transportation Inc. of Schaller, Iowa. President Brian Pyle said that he had sold the truck to a man in Mexico and that Bradley was an independent contractor who was supposed to deliver it to a pick-up point in Brownsville.