SAN ANTONIO (CBSNewYork) — For dozens of immigrants, it looked like a ride to a better life. But for at least 10 people, it was a death trap on wheels.

And now the driver of the tractor-trailer — 60-year-old James Bradley — is under arrest and could spend the rest of his life in prison.

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“We’re looking at a human-trafficking crime,” said San Antonio Police Chief William McManus.

Police in San Antonio say they discovered the disturbing scene inside an 18-wheeler parked outside of a Walmart. Eight people were dead inside, two more died at the hospital, and dozens of other immigrants were barely breathing in the back of the stifling hot semi truck, with temperatures reaching 100 degrees outside.

James Bradley

James Bradley is charged with smuggling immigrants after 10 people riding in the back of his tractor-trailer died.

Investigators say the truck’s air conditioner wasn’t working.

Survivors say it was pitch black inside. They took turns breathing out of a single hole in the truck and pounded on the walls, crying and pleading for something to drink.

Some on board were children.

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“These people were in that trailer without any signs of any type of water,” said San Antonio Fire Chief Charles Hood. “So you’re looking at a lot of heat stroke, a lot of dehydration.”

Authorities say possibly as many as 100 undocumented immigrants were packed inside the sweltering trailer. Some of the victims are believed to have entered the country illegally from Guatemala and Mexico and then got into the trailer somewhere in Texas before stopping at the San Antonio Walmart.

“There were a number of vehicles that came in and picked up a lot of the folks that were in that trailer that survived the trip,” McManus said.

The truck was registered to Pyle Transportation in Iowa. The company president said the truck was sold to a man in Mexico in May, and Bradley was supposed to deliver it to a Texas pickup point over the weekend.

Bradley claims he had no idea the immigrants were in his trailer until he stopped to relieve himself and heard banging. He is charged with illegally smuggling foreigners for “commercial advantage or private financial gain.”

“I just can’t imagine them being stuck in there dying when they thought they were coming here for a better life,” said Diandra Borrero, a college student.

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Authorities say people linked to the Zetas, the notorious Mexican cartel, were involved in the operation charging the migrants thousands of dollars for protection and transportation by raft from Mexico to the U.S.