An apparent smuggling operation involving undocumented immigrants came to a tragic conclusion early Sunday morning when emergency responders found dozens of people in distress inside a hot semi-trailer at a Walmart in southwest San Antonio.
The San Antonio Fire Department reported that eight people died at the scene. Seventeen more were transported to hospitals with life-threatening injuries, and another 13 had non-life-threatening injuries.
Authorities said an employee at the Walmart encountered a person who was disoriented and asking for water at the store located at I-35 and Highway 16 on the city's southwest side. The person said that there were people inside the trailer outside who needed help.
When police arrived on the scene around 12:30 a.m. Sunday. They detained the driver immediately and searched the trailer to find several people in various stages of medical distress. Firefighters were called to the scene and at least 29 fire units and two AirLIFE choppers responded to the scene to take care of the victims.
Police said there was a total of 38 victims in and around the trailer. Of the 17 victims with life-threatening injuries, six were taken to University Hospital and 11 were sent to San Antonio Military Medical Center. The 13 victims with non-life threatening injuries were taken to five other area hospitals.
Eight victims were pronounced dead at the scene and officials said all of the deceased are believed to have died as a result of heat exposure/asphyxiation. Their bodies were taken to the Bexar County Medical Examiner's Office for examination where a cause of death will be determined.
Police do not have positive age ranged and demographics for the injured or deceased. Officials said the two youngest surviving injured victims are 15-years-old.
San Antonio police and the U.S. Immigrant and Customs Enforcement agents also were called to the scene.