‘They couldn’t breathe’: Migrant survived a deadly trailer found in Texas by staying near the door – National | Globalnews.ca

A friend’s advice to stay close to the door of a semitrailer may have saved Yenifer Yulisa Cardona Tomás from the deadly end of 53 other migrants when the truck was abandoned last week outside San Antonio.

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Cardona Tomás, a 20-year-old from the Guatemalan capital, said in a phone interview Monday from her hospital bed that it was already hot June 27 when she left the warehouse on the Texas side of the border with Mexico where there had been been waiting and climbed into the back of the trailer.

The smugglers confiscated her cell phones and covered the floor of the trailer with what she believes was powdered chicken broth, apparently to get rid of any dogs they might find at checkpoints. Sitting inside the stifling trailer with dozens of others, the dust stung her skin.

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Remembering her friend’s advice to stay near the door where it would be cooler, Cardona Tomás shared it with another friend that she had made during the trip.

“I told a friend that we shouldn’t go to the back and we should stay near (the entrance), in the same place without moving,” said Cardona Tomás, who is being treated at Metropolitan Methodist Hospital in San Antonio. That friend also survived.

As the truck moved on, making additional stops to pick up more migrants, people began to gather near the gate like Cardona Tomás. He had no way of measuring time.

“People were screaming, some were crying. Most of the women would ask her to stop and open the doors because it was hot, they couldn’t breathe,” she said, still struggling a bit to speak after being intubated at the hospital.

Click to play video: 'Death toll continues to rise after tractor-trailer containing immigrants found in Texas'

Death toll continues to rise after tractor-trailer with migrants found in Texas

Death toll continues to rise after tractor-trailer with migrants found in Texas

She said the driver or someone else in the taxi yelled at her that “we were about to arrive, there were 20 minutes left, six minutes.”

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“People were asking for water, some had run out, others had a little,” he said.

The truck continued to stop from time to time, but just before he passed out it was moving slowly. She woke up in the hospital.

The driver and three others were arrested and charged by US prosecutors.

The Guatemalan Foreign Ministry has said that 20 Guatemalans were killed in the incident, 16 of whom have been positively identified. Foreign Minister Mario Bucaro said he expected the first bodies to be repatriated this week.

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San Antonio migrant death toll reaches 53 as defendants face federal charges

Cardona Tomas said the truck’s destination that day was Houston, although it was ultimately headed for North Carolina.

“She didn’t have a job and she asked me if I would support her” in migrating to the United States, her father, Mynor Cordon, said Monday in Guatemala City, where the family lives. He said that he knew of other cases of children who simply left without notifying their families and ended up disappearing or dying, so he decided to support her.

She paid a smuggler $4,000 — less than half the total cost — to take her to the U.S. She left Guatemala on May 30, traveling by car, bus and finally the semi in Texas.

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“I didn’t know she was going to be traveling in a trailer,” he said. “She told us that she would be on foot. It seems that at the last moment the smugglers decided to put her in the trailer, along with two other friends, who survived. One of them is still in critical condition.

Click to play video: 'More than 50 migrants found dead in abandoned truck trailer in Texas'

More than 50 migrants found dead in abandoned truck trailer in Texas

More than 50 migrants found dead in abandoned truck trailer in Texas

Cordon kept in touch with her daughter until the morning of June 27. Her last message to him that Monday was at 10:28 am in Guatemala, or 11:28 am in Texas. “We’re leaving in an hour,” he wrote.

It wasn’t until late that night that Cardona Tomas’s family found out about the abandoned trailer. Two more days passed before relatives in the United States confirmed that she was alive and hospitalized.

“We cried a lot,” Cordon said. “I was even thinking about where we were going to hold the wake and bury her. She is a miracle.

© 2022 The Canadian Press

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