The driver of the tractor-trailer that was found to be smuggling dozens of immigrants, 10 of whom have died, in San Antonio over the weekend claims he did not know there were people inside the sweltering trailer until he parked the truck at a Walmart store in San Antonio, according to a criminal complaint filed in U.S. District Court Monday.
Reports also reveal that the driver, James Mathew Bradley, Jr., was not a licensed CDL driver, having had his Florida-issued CDL revoked in April, and that he and the company he was contracted to, Pyle Transportation, have checkered pasts.
According to Monday’s complaint, Bradley told police he got out of his truck to urinate and heard “banging and shaking” in the trailer. The complaint goes on to say Bradley opened the door of the trailer and was “run over by ‘Spanish’ people and knocked to the ground.” He estimated to authorities that 30 to 40 people ran out of the trailer when he opened the doors.
— Heavy.com (@HeavySan) July 24, 2017
The driver then told police he saw bodies on the floor of the trailer and knew at least one was deceased. When he returned to his truck, he tried to call his fiancee, but she didn’t answer, and he did not call 911, according to the complaint.
The document says Bradley told investigators he was traveling from Iowa to Brownsville, Texas, for Pyle Transportation to deliver the trailer to someone who purchased it, but said he was not given a time frame to deliver the trailer or a delivery address. He told them that before going to San Antonio, he had been in Laredo, Texas, getting his truck washed and detailed.
Trucker, trucking company appear to have checkered histories
According to a report from The Associated Press, the company Bradley was driving for, Pyle Transportation out of Schaller, Iowa, has a history of safety and tax violations and financial problems. The report alleges the company has failed to pay employment and trucking taxes, faced lawsuits over unpaid wages to drivers and more.
The owner of the company, Brian Pyle, also denied any knowledge of human smuggling, according to the AP report. He told the news organization he had sold the trailer to someone in Mexico and hired a former company driver, Bradley, as an independent contractor to take the trailer to a drop-off point in Brownsville.
Pyle Transportation declined to comment on the situation when contacted by Overdrive.
A report by FoxNews.com states Bradley had his Florida-issued commercial driver’s license revoked in April and that he has a criminal record dating back to the 1990s.
Bradley was charged Monday with transporting immigrants who were in the U.S. illegally, resulting in 10 deaths – a charge that carries the possibility of the death penalty.
— Dallas Morning News (@dallasnews) July 23, 2017
Victims estimate up to 200 were in trailer
Homeland Security agents interviewed several of the survivors from the perilous trip, the complaint states, who told them they had been smuggled into the United States before being taken to the trailer.
Accounts from three separate survivors indicate groups of immigrants were loaded into the trailer, and one unnamed undocumented migrant guessed there were up to 200 people in the trailer. Adan Lara Vega, one of the survivors, told the AP in a video interview “the trailer was full” of people. All three of the men told investigators they had paid to be smuggled into the United States, then were taken and loaded into the trailer.
One man told investigators someone told the group the trailer had refrigeration before their journey began. While the trailer did have a reefer unit, it either did not work or was not turned on. The complaint also states that Bradley told investigators he knew the reefer unit didn’t work and that the vent holes in the trailer “were probably clogged up.”
The victim told the agents the first hour of the trip was OK, but people then began having trouble breathing and were passing out. The complaint states he said there was a hole in the trailer people were trying to breathe through for fresh air.
When the truck arrived at the Walmart store, the man says the rear doors were opened and “people started to swarm out,” according to the document. He went on to say six black SUVs were waiting to pick people up. He told investigators he did not see who opened the trailer doors or who the driver of the truck was. The complaint states Bradley told police no one was around and no other vehicles were present when he opened the trailer doors.
— NBC DFW (@NBCDFW) July 24, 2017