The call came around midnight. A disoriented man had emerged from a tractor trailer in a Walmart parking lot near San Antonio, Texas, to ask a store employee for water.
After fetching water, the employee called police, who found eight dead bodies and dozens struggling for their lives in the back of the sweltering 18-wheeler.
In an incident the local police chief described as a “horrific” human trafficking tragedy, 39 people were found in and around the trailer in a parking lot off Interstate 35 in San Antonio, about 150 miles from the U.S.-Mexico border.
Eight men were pronounced dead at the scene early Sunday morning and are believed to have suffered from heat exposure and asphyxiation, police spokeswoman Romana Lopez said. Another man died later at a hospital, bringing the toll to nine.