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 City 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, per the AP. 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 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," she said. The truck would continue stopping occasionally, but just before she lost consciousness it was moving slowly. She woke up in the hospital. "She is a miracle," her father, Mynor Cordóna, said Monday in Guatemala City, where the family lives. He'd paid $4,000 for a smuggler—less than half the total cost—to take her to the US. Cardona Tomás recalled how the smugglers confiscated cellphones and covered the trailer's floor with what she believes was powdered chicken bouillon, apparently to throw off any dogs at checkpoints. The driver and three others are facing charges. (Read more San Antonio stories.)