Death toll climbs to 9 in San Antonio human trafficking case

Driver in custody, facing state and federal charges


SAN ANTONIO – The death toll in a "horrific" human trafficking case in San Antonio has climbed to nine, federal officials announced Sunday afternoon.

Eight people were initially found dead and another 31 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.

One of the 31 taken to an area hospital has died, officials said.

Federal and local are investigating, but in the meantime, here’s what we know:

A Wal-Mart employee alerted police

A Wal-Mart employee called San Antonio police around 12:30 a.m. Sunday after a disoriented man approached him asking for water. The Wal-Mart is located at 8358 Interstate 35 South on the city’s southwest side.

8 were found dead at the scene, another other 30 were hospitalized -- 1 more has died at the hospital

The cause of death is believed to be from a combination of heat exposure and asphyxiation. First-responders found the 30 survivors “hot to the touch” and showing signs of heat stroke and dehydration.

Seventeen people were taken to area hospitals on Priority 1 status: life threatening injury/illness. Thirteen others were taken on Priority 2 status: not immediately life-threatening.

2 of the 30 taken to area hospitals are school-aged children

Police said those two are believed to be about 15 years old. The others are in their 20s and 30s. Investigators have yet to determine their country of origin or destination.

‘Human trafficking crime’

Police have the driver of the 18-wheeler in custody. The driver is facing state and federal charges.

Surveillance footage could lead to more arrests

“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.

Federal investigators are involved

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Homeland Security officials have also been called in to investigate

Watch early morning briefing from SAPD Chief William McManus and SAFD Chief Charles Hood:

Police Chief William McManus and Fire Chief Charles Hood briefing on tractor trailer found with multiple deceased after being smuggled inside. 8538 IH35S

Posted by San Antonio Police Department on Sunday, July 23, 2017