Teen who died in sweltering truck grew up in Fairfax Co., was deported

WASHINGTON — One of the 10 undocumented immigrants who died in the back of a broiling tractor-trailer graduated from a Fairfax County high school, had recently been deported, and was trying to sneak back into the United States.

According to immigration officials, Frank G. Fuentes was brought from Guatemala to the U.S. before he was 3 years old. Fuentes grew up in Northern Virginia and graduated from J.E.B. Stuart High School in 2015.

Nineteen-year-old Fuentes was deported on March 2, 2017 after being convicted of assault and battery by a mob, and grand larceny by pickpocketing, according to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. He was suspected of having gang connections.

The Washington Post reported that one month ago, Fuentes told a friend he was struggling in Guatemala, and missed his friends and family in Northern Virginia.

Two Guatemalans who survived the trek in the overheated tractor trailer said the group, including Fuentes, had crossed into the United States from Mexico through a desert zone near Laredo, Texas. They boarded the truck bound for Houston.

According to the Guatemalan government, Fuentes and the others in the ventilation-less compartment of the truck died of heat exposure and asphyxiation.

The truck driver, James Matthew Bradley, Jr., has been charged with smuggling immigrants for financial gain resulting in death.

Some of the immigrants who survived the trip could be granted “U visas,” which would allow them to stay in the U.S. for at least 4 years, to help law enforcement officials with investigations or prosecutions in the matter.

Neal Augenstein

Neal Augenstein has been a reporter at WTOP since 1997. Through the years, Neal has covered many of the crimes and trials that have gripped the region. Neal's been pleased to receive awards over the years for hard news, feature reporting, use of sound and sports.

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