CHICAGO, Aug 17, 2017 (BSS/AFP) – A US grand jury Wednesday handed down five charges, including one that carries the death penalty, against the driver allegedly behind a horror truck journey that saw 10 migrants suffocate to death.
James Bradley, 60, already faced one charge of transporting undocumented immigrants, after his truck was found last month near the US-Mexico border in Texas with migrants stuffed inside.
A federal grand jury added three more counts of conspiring to transport undocumented immigrants and one count of possessing a firearm as a convicted felon.
The various charges carry maximum sentences ranging from 10 years in jail to life imprisonment or death.
Of the 39 migrants who were discovered in the overheated trailer, 10 died including one juvenile, two remained hospitalized and 22 were being held as material witnesses, authorities said.
In interviews with investigators, the migrants estimated that as many as 200 people were at one time in the trailer with a broken refrigeration system, traveling through the baking Texas heat.
The migrants said they took turns breathing through a ventilation hole, and described an increasingly desperate situation as the heat in the trailer built up.
“People began hitting the trailer walls and making noise to get the driver’s attention. The driver never stopped,” according to one of the migrants quoted in court documents.
The migrants were discovered in the back of the 18-wheel truck in a Walmart parking lot in San Antonio, when one of them approached a store employee asking for water.
Authorities publicly identified eight of the dead, all Mexican and Guatemalan nationals.
Of the remaining survivors, four were under the age of 18 and now under the supervision of the Office of Refugee Resettlement, authorities said.
Bradley is a convicted felon with multiple prior charges, such as grand theft and assault, dating back to 1997, according to the San Antonio Express-News.