BERLIN (AP) — Thirty-five migrants were found in the trailer of a truck in southern Austria after the vehicle was damaged and an employee at a repair workshop heard noises from inside, police said Thursday. The driver was arrested.
The Polish-registered vehicle drove the wrong way out of a highway rest area near Klagenfurt on Wednesday afternoon, triggering traffic spikes that damaged its tires and caused some of them to catch fire, police in Carinthia province said in a statement. The driver extinguished the flames.
Witnesses reported the incident to highway police, and the vehicle was towed to nearby Villach, where the truck was taken into a garage for repairs. Police say the driver, a 68-year-old Turkish citizen, contacted his “boss,” who became agitated when told the work wouldn’t be finished until the following morning and pushed for the repairs to be completed as quickly as possible.
At around 9 p.m. — seven hours after the highway incident — a garage employee noticed noises and voices coming from the sealed trailer, which had been parked while the truck itself was repaired, police said. Another employee, using an infrared camera, saw evidence of movement inside the vehicle.
Police were called and opened the trailer, finding 35 people inside who were suffering from the cold and had spent more than 70 hours in the vehicle without supplies. They said the people were from Bangladesh, Nepal and Egypt, but they were still investigating their route and planned destination.
The driver, who had accompanied the truck to the garage, was arrested on the spot.
In August 2015, 71 migrants were found dead in the back of a truck abandoned on an Austrian highway near the Hungarian border. They were among more than a million migrants and refugees from the Middle East and Afghanistan who crossed into the EU that year via Turkey and the Balkans.