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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 13 December 2018

US driver charged over the deaths of 10 people during human smuggling operation

James Bradley could face the death penalty if convicted

Police officers examine the lorry in which 10 people died during a suspected human smuggling operation.  REUTERS/Ray Whitehouse
Police officers examine the lorry in which 10 people died during a suspected human smuggling operation. REUTERS/Ray Whitehouse

A driver has been charged in connection with the deaths of 10 people crammed inside his stifling truck during a suspected human smuggling operation across the border from Mexico to the United States.

James Matthew Bradley Jr. faces five criminal charges and if found guilty could face the death penalty. He denied knowing that people were stowed away inside the truck.

Investigators believe he was part of a bigger conspiracy but have not charged anyone else in connection with the deaths.

At least 39 people were in the back of the lorry and they struggled to breathe as temperatures rose to dangerously high levels. One witness heard people crying for help and asking for water.

Eight of the ten people who died during the smuggling attempt last month have been identified. Seven were Mexican with one other from Guatemala. Others are believed to have fled from the truck after it stopped in San Antonio, Texas.

"They came to America wanting just to work, as they could not find a job in Mexico that could support their families,” said Michael McCrum, a San Antonio attorney appointed to represent some of those inside the truck.

Human smuggling operations often linked to Mexican drug cartels are a major problem for law enforcement along the United States' southern border.