Woman who was inside the semi-trailer where 53 migrants died, says friend’s advice may have saved her life: “They couldn’t breathe”

A friend’s simple advice to stay near the door may have saved Yennifer Yulisa Cardona Tomas from the fatal fate that left 53 other migrants stranded in a semi-trailer off the shores of San Antonio last week.

The 20-year-old from the Guatemalan capital, speaking on the phone from her hospital bed on Monday, said it was already hot on June 27 when she exited the warehouse on the Texas side of the Mexico border, where she was waiting and Climbed on. behind the trailer.

Guatemala US migrants die
Mayor Cardona shows a photo receiving a visit on his cellphone of his daughter, Yenifer Yulisa Cardona Tomas, at the hospital in Guatemala City, Monday, July 4, 2022.

Oliver DeRoss/AP

She said the smugglers confiscated their cellphones and covered the floor of the trailer with powdered chicken broth, ostensibly to throw any dogs at checkpoints. As she sat inside the suffocating trailer with dozens of others, powder stung her skin.

Cardona Tomas recalled his friend’s caution to stay near the door, saying that Cardona Tomas shared advice he had made during the trip with another friend.

“I told a friend that we shouldn’t go back and stay close to[the entrance]without moving,” said Cardona Tomas, who is undergoing treatment at Methodist Hospital Metropolitan in San Antonio. That friend also survived.

As the truck progressed, people began to gather near the door like Cardona Tomas, making additional stops to pick up more migrants. He had no way of tracking the time.

“People were screaming, some cried. Most women were calling to close it and open doors because it was hot, that they couldn’t breathe,” she said, still in hospital to speak after being intubated to work a little.

She said the driver or someone else in the cab shouted that “we were about to come, that 20 minutes were left, six minutes.”

“People asked for water, some ran out, others took some,” she said.

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

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

Guatemala’s foreign ministry said that 20 Guatemalans were killed in the incident, of whom 16 have been identified as positive. Foreign Minister Mario Beccaro said he hoped the bodies would be brought back earlier this week.

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

“He didn’t have a job and asked me if I would support him,” his father, Mayor Cardona, said Monday in Guatemala City, where the family lives. He said he knew of other cases of children who went and disappeared or died without telling their families, so he decided to return them.

He paid $4,000 for a smuggler – less than half of the total cost – to take him to the US. He left Guatemala on May 30, traveling in cars, buses and finally in semi-trailers in Texas.

“I had no idea she would travel in a trailer,” he said. “He told us it would be on foot. It seems that at the last moment the smugglers decided to put him in a trailer along with two more friends who survived. One of them is still in critical condition.”

Cardona remained in touch with his daughter until the morning of June 27. His last message was that on Monday at 10:28 a.m. in Guatemala, or 11:28 a.m. in Texas. “We’re going to leave in an hour,” she wrote.

The family of Cardona Tomas was not made aware of the abandoned trailer until that night. Two days ago relatives in the United States confirmed that she was alive and hospitalized.

“We cried a lot,” Cardona said. “I was also wondering where we wake up and bury him. He’s a miracle.”

Guatemala US migrants die
Minor Cardona, father of Yenifer Yulisa Cardona Tomas, listens to a question during an interview in Guatemala City, Monday, July 4, 2022.

Oliver DeRoss/AP

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