Suit filed, trial dates set in Texas trailer deaths

| 8/3/2005

A pretrial hearing date has been set in a civil lawsuit stemming from the deaths of 19 illegal immigrants in a smuggling operation gone bad. A retrial date for criminal charges against the driver involved has also been set.

The Associated Press reported that Great Dane Trailers, Salem Truck Leasing and trucker Tyrone Williams have been named as defendants in a lawsuit filed by relatives of seven of the 19 people who died when a semitrailer they were riding in was abandoned at a truck stop near Victoria, TX.

The trailer, which was hauled by Williams, contained more than 70 illegal immigrants from Honduras and Mexico. Seventeen of the people died from dehydration, overheating and suffocation. Two others died later.

Relatives of seven of the 17 people who died inside the trailer are suing the maker of the trailer, the trucking company and the trucker involved and are seeking millions of dollars in damages.

Driver Tyrone Williams was convicted in March on 38 charges of transporting illegal immigrants. A mistrial was declared on 20 additional counts – including one count of conspiracy and 19 harboring counts.

Prosecutors want to retry Williams, 34, on all 58 counts he faced. A Dec. 5 date has been set for retrial on the conspiracy count only.

Pretrial hearings in the civil suit are scheduled to begin Tuesday, Sept. 6.