A survivor of the migrant trailer: ‘They couldn’t breathe’

Jul 4, 2022, 9:01 AM | Updated: 10:43 pm
Astrid Cardona kisses her mother Ufemia Tomás, mother of Yenifer Yulisa Cardona Tomás, during an ...

Astrid Cardona kisses her mother Ufemia Tomás, mother of Yenifer Yulisa Cardona Tomás, during an interview in Guatemala City, Monday, July 4, 2022. Yenifer Yulisa Cardona Tomás is one of the survivors of the more than 50 migrants who were found dead inside a tractor-trailer near San Antonio, Texas. (AP Photo/Oliver de Ros)

(AP Photo/Oliver de Ros)

GUATEMALA CITY (AP) — Simple advice from a friend to stay near the door may have saved Yenifer Yulisa Cardona Tomás from the deadly fate that befell 53 other migrants when they were abandoned trapped in a sweltering semi-trailer last week on the edge of San Antonio.

Speaking by phone from her hospital bed Monday, the 20-year-old from Guatemala’s capital said it was already hot on June 27 when she stepped out of the warehouse on the Texas side of the Mexico border where she had been waiting and climbed into the back of the trailer.

She said the smugglers confiscated their cellphones and covered the trailer’s floor with what she believes was powdered chicken bouillon, apparently to throw off any dogs at checkpoints. As she sat stuffed inside the stifling trailer with dozens of others, the powder stung her skin.

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

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

As the truck moved on, making additional stops to pick up more migrants, people began to cluster near the door like Cardona Tomás. She had no way to track the time.

“The people were yelling, some cried. Mostly women were calling for it to stop and to open the doors because it was hot, that they couldn’t breathe,” she said, still laboring a bit to speak after being intubated at the hospital.

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

“People asked for water, some had run out, others carried some,” she said.

The truck would continue stopping occasionally, but just before she lost consciousness it was moving slowly. She woke up in the hospital.

The driver and three others were arrested and charged by U.S. prosecutors.

Guatemala’s Foreign Ministry has said that 20 Guatemalans died in the incident, 16 of whom have been positively identified. Foreign Minister Mario Búcaro said he hoped the first bodies would be repatriated this week.

Cardona Tomás said the truck’s destination that day was Houston, though she was ultimately headed to North Carolina.

“She didn’t have a job and asked me if I would support her” in migrating to the U.S., her father, Mynor Cordóna, said Monday in Guatemala City, where the family lives. He said he knew of other cases of children who just left without telling their families and ended up disappearing or dying so he decided to back her.

He paid $4,000 for a smuggler — less than half the total cost — to take her to the U.S. She left Guatemala on May 30, traveling in cars, buses and finally the semi-trailer in Texas.

“I didn’t know that she would travel in a trailer,” he said. “She told us it would be by foot. It seems like at the last moment the smugglers decided to put (her) in the trailer, along with two more friends, who survived. One of them is still in critical condition.”

Cordóna had stayed in touch with his daughter up until the morning of June 27. Her last message to him that Monday was at 10:28 a.m. in Guatemala, or 11:28 a.m. in Texas. “We’re going to go in an hour,” she wrote.

It was not until late that night that Cardona Tomás’ family learned of the abandoned trailer. It was two more days before relatives in the United States confirmed that she was alive and hospitalized.

“We cried so much,” Cordóna said. “I even was thinking where we were going to have the wake and bury her. She is a miracle.”

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

Arby's - LEHI, UT - OCTOBER 26: Exterior view of an Arby's restaurant on October 26, 2017 in Lehi, ...
Associated Press

Ex-Arby’s manager in Vancouver, Wash. sentenced after urinating in milkshake mix

A former manager at an Arby’s restaurant admitted to possessing child pornography and urinated into a milkshake mix
10 hours ago
FILE - Immigration demonstrators stand on the steps of the Kenneth Hahn Hall of Administration on D...
Associated Press

Nonprofits help fund immigrants’ legal fights on deportation

As the number of immigrants seeking court permission to avoid deportation grows, foundations in Los Angeles have joined with local governments to direct millions of dollars to pay for lawyers to represent the immigrants, an effort they hope will be copied across the country. Unlike defendants in a criminal case who can be represented by […]
1 day ago
FILE - Members of the FBI Evidence Response Team Unit investigate in downtown Highland Park, Ill., ...
Associated Press

Smith & Wesson sued over link to July 4 parade mass shooting

CHICAGO (AP) — The gun-maker Smith & Wesson illegally targeted young men at risk of violence with ads for firearms — including the 22-year-old gunman accused of opening fire on an Independence Day parade in suburban Chicago and killing seven people, according to several lawsuits filed Wednesday in Illinois. The lawsuits filed by people wounded […]
1 day ago
Shale Harris, 15, throws a pass as she tries out for the Redondo Union High School girls flag footb...
Associated Press

California eyes making girls flag football a school sport

REDONDO BEACH, Calif. (AP) — Elsa Morin gripped the football and launched a perfect spiral. Then the 17-year-old dodged in and out of cones and yanked the flag hanging from another girl’s belt for a key defensive play. “Something about football just gets me really excited,” said the senior at Southern California’s Redondo Union High […]
1 day ago
This photo provided by the Lasker Foundation in September 2022 shows Johns Hopkins University civil...
Associated Press

Scientists honored for COVID-19 tracker, prenatal test

NEW YORK (AP) — A Johns Hopkins University scientist who created a website to track COVID-19 cases worldwide is the recipient of this year’s Lasker award for public service. The $250,000 awards, announced Wednesday by the Albert and Mary Lasker Foundation, recognize achievements in medical research. The public service award went to Lauren Gardner, an […]
1 day ago
FILE - A launch truck fires the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) at its intended targ...
Associated Press

US poised to provide $1.1 billion more in aid to Ukraine

WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. will provide an additional $1.1 billion in aid to Ukraine, with funding for about 18 more advanced rocket systems and other weapons to counter drones that Russia has been using against Ukrainian troops, according to U.S. officials. The latest package is being provided under the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative, which […]
1 day ago

Sponsored Articles

Anacortes Christmas Tree...

Come one, come all! Food, Drink, and Coastal Christmas – Anacortes has it all!

Come celebrate Anacortes’ 11th annual Bier on the Pier! Bier on the Pier takes place on October 7th and 8th and features local ciders, food trucks and live music - not to mention the beautiful views of the Guemes Channel and backdrop of downtown Anacortes.
Swedish Cyberknife Treatment...

The revolutionary treatment of Swedish CyberKnife provides better quality of life for majority of patients

There are a wide variety of treatments options available for men with prostate cancer. One of the most technologically advanced treatment options in the Pacific Northwest is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy using the CyberKnife platform at Swedish Medical Center.
Work at Zum Services...

Seattle Public Schools announces three-year contract with Zum

Seattle Public Schools just announced a three-year contract with a brand-new company to the Pacific Northwest to assist with their student transportation: Zum.
Swedish Cyberknife 900x506...

June is Men’s Health Month: Here’s Why It’s Important To Speak About Your Health

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, men in the United States, on average, die five years earlier than women.
...

Anacortes – A Must Visit Summertime Destination

While Anacortes is certainly on the way to the San Juan Islands (SJI), it is not just a destination to get to the ferry… Anacortes is a destination in and of itself!
...

Ready for your 2022 Alaskan Adventure with Celebrity Cruises?

Celebrity Cruises SPONSORED — A round-trip Alaska cruise from Seattle is an amazing treat for you and a loved one. Not only are you able to see and explore some of the most incredible and visually appealing natural sights on the planet, but you’re also able to relax and re-energize while aboard a luxury cruise […]
A survivor of the migrant trailer: ‘They couldn’t breathe’