Authorities: Tractor-trailer registered to Iowa business - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Authorities: Tractor-trailer registered to Iowa business

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(AP) -

UPDATE: Federal authorities say charges will be filed against a Florida man in connection to the deaths of nine people found in the back of a sweltering tractor-trailer outside a San Antonio Walmart.

U.S. Attorney Richard Durbin Jr. released a statement Sunday saying 60-year-old James Mathew Bradley Jr. of Clearwater, Florida, is in federal custody in San Antonio.

Durbin says Bradley is expected to make a court appearance after a criminal complaint is filed Monday.

Durbin's office wouldn't say whether Bradley was the alleged driver of the truck.

Authorities said earlier Sunday that the driver was in custody.

Durbin's office says Bradley will have a charge or charges filed against him in the criminal complaint.

A call to a phone number listed for a James Bradley in Clearwater rang unanswered Sunday.

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Authorities called to a Walmart parking lot found ten people dead and 20 others in dire condition in the back of a sweltering tractor-trailer, victims of what police said Sunday was an immigrant-smuggling attempt gone wrong.

The driver was arrested, officials said.

It was just the latest smuggling-by-truck operation to end in tragedy. In one of the worst cases on record in the U.S., 19 immigrants locked inside a stifling rig died in Victoria, Texas, in 2003.

In addition to the ten dead this time, 30 other people who had been crammed into the rig in the broiling midsummer Texas heat were taken to the hospital. Twenty of them were in extremely critical or serious condition, many suffering from extreme dehydration and heatstroke, authorities said.

"They were very hot to the touch. So these people were in this trailer without any signs of any type of water," San Antonio Fire Chief Charles Hood said.

Authorities said they were investigating where the immigrants were from.

They did not say whether the rig was locked when they arrived, whether it was used to smuggle the occupants across the border into the U.S., or where it might have been headed. San Antonio is about a 150-mile (240-kilometer) drive from the Mexican border.

"We're looking at a human-trafficking crime," Police Chief William McManus said, adding that many of those inside the 18-wheeler appeared to be in their 20s and 30s and that there were also apparently two school-age children.

He called it "a horrific tragedy."

There was no immediate word on any charges brought against the driver, whose name was not released. The U.S. Homeland Security Department stepped in to take the lead in the investigation.

The temperature in San Antonio reached 101 degrees (38 Celsius) on Saturday and didn't dip below 90 (32 C) until after 10 p.m. The trailer didn't have a working air conditioning system, Hood said.

The tragedy came to light after a person from the truck approached a Walmart employee in the parking lot and asked for water late Saturday night or early Sunday morning, McManus said.

The employee gave the person water and then called police, who found the dead and the desperate inside the rig. Some of those in the truck ran into the woods, leading to a search, McManus said.

Hours later, after daybreak, a helicopter hovered over the area, and investigators were still gathering evidence from the tractor-trailer, which had an Iowa license plate and was registered to Pyle Transportation Inc. of Schaller, Iowa. A company official did not immediately respond to a phone message seeking comment.

Investigators checked store surveillance video, which showed vehicles arriving and picking up people from the truck, authorities said.

"By any standard, the horrific crime uncovered last night ranks as a stark reminder of why human smuggling networks must be pursued, caught and punished," Thomas Homan, acting director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said in a statement.

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A U.S. official says the death toll from people found in the back of a sweltering tractor-trailer in the parking lot of a San Antonio Walmart has risen to 10.

Thomas Homan, acting director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, told The Associated Press that two people died in a hospital.

Eight bodies were found in the truck.

Based on initial interviews with survivors, Homan says there may have been more than 100 people in the truck.

Thirty-eight were found inside.

The rest are believed to have fled or been picked up.

Homan says some survivors have identified themselves as Mexican nationals.

Four of the passengers are believed to be between 10 and 17 years old, and at least one of them is in serious condition.

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