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18 Dead In and Around Texas 18-Wheeler

May 14, 2003 GMT

VICTORIA, Texas (AP) _ Sheriff’s deputies found 18 bodies early Wednesday in and around a trailer at a South Texas truck stop, and they were trying to find other people, possibly illegal immigrants, who fled the scene, officials said.

Victoria County Sheriff’s deputies found the bodies about 2 a.m. when they answered a reported disturbance inside a trailer at the truck stop near Victoria, said Stuart Posey, a sheriff’s investigator.

``Right now we have 18 bodies,″ said Justice of the Peace Jack Milam. The majority of the victims were inside the trailer, he said. Some of the survivors fled into the surrounding fields.

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Carol Bludau, chief of staff for the Victoria County Sheriff’s office, said investigators suspected the victims were illegal immigrants.

It wasn’t immediately clear how many people had been in the trailer or how long they had been there, Posey said. Victoria radio station KTXN reported that about 50 people had been inside and that 12 were taken to hospitals Wednesday, including two in intensive care.

The truck driver had unhitched the cab and left the trailer behind.

There have been several cases of illegal immigrants dying in sealed containers as they are being brought secretly into the country.

In October, workers at a grain elevator in Denison, Iowa, discovered the badly decomposed bodies of 11 migrants in a grain car that was being prepared for loading. Authorities estimated the four women and seven men had been trapped inside the grain car for at least four months and had died of dehydration and hyperthermia, or overheating.

Authorities who pulled over a truck near Dallas in July found two dead undocumented immigrants among at least 28 others who had been crammed into the back of a sweltering, unventilated tractor-trailer truck during a 600-mile trip from El Paso to Dallas.

In 1987, Border Patrol agents found 18 Mexican immigrants dead and one barely alive in a boxcar left on a rail siding in Sierra Blanca, Texas. The survivor told authorities the man who smuggled them across the border put them aboard a boxcar in El Paso and locked the door.

Federal immigration agents were headed to the trailer found Wednesday near Victoria, Posey said. The truck stop is along Highway 77, about 230 miles from the Mexican border.