New York, Jan 22: In an unfortunate incident, a family of four Indian nationals, including a teenager and an infant, froze to death along the US-Canada border near Emerson. As per the reports, the family who died along the US-Canada border may be a failed crossing attempt during a freezing blizzard. US police have suspected the case to be a human smuggling operation.
Investigators in the US and Canada believe the deaths are linked to a larger human smuggling operation that unravelled on Wednesday as the US law enforcement arrested seven Indians who were attempting to cross the border to get into the US.
Reacting to the news the External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar said he was shocked to hear about the incident. He has also instructed the Indian ambassadors in the US and Canada to urgently respond to the situation. Jaishankar tweeted, “Shocked by the report that 4 Indian nationals, including an infant, have lost their lives at the Canada-US border. Have asked our Ambassadors in the US and Canada to urgently respond to the situation.
A criminal complaint was filed on Friday in the US District Court for the District of Minnesota against 47-year-old US citizen Steve Shand, who has been charged with human smuggling. According to court documents, a US Border Patrol in North Dakota stopped a passenger van just south of the Canadian border on Wednesday. Shand was driving and was with two undocumented Indian nationals. Inside the vehicle, officers found cases of plastic cups, bottled water, bottled juice, and snacks.
As they were taking the three back to the border patrol station in North Dakota, the officers spotted another group of five Indian nationals walking.
They said they had walked across the border and had expected to be picked up by someone. The group said they estimated they had been walking for more than 11 hours, the report added. A woman stopped breathing several times as she was transported to the hospital. Court documents said she will require partial amputation of her hand. A man was also hospitalized for frostbite but was later released.
One of the men in the group was carrying a backpack that had baby supplies in it — clothes, a diaper, and a toy. Court documents said he told the officers that it belonged to a family who got separated from their group overnight. The bodies discovered in Canada have been tentatively identified as that of the family of four, the release from the US Attorney’s Office said.
In Winnipeg, Canada, on Thursday, Manitoba Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) Assistant Commissioner Jane MacLatchy told a news conference that once they were notified that the family may still be in Manitoba, officers immediately began to search the area.
After a difficult search, she said, officers found three bodies together — a man, a woman, and a baby — just 10 meters from the border. The search continued and a teen boy was found a short distance away. It is believed they died from exposure. “It is an absolute and heartbreaking tragedy,” MacLatchy said.
They were wearing winter clothing, she said, but it would not have been enough to save them with the freezing conditions.“These victims faced not only the cold weather but also endless fields, large snowdrifts, and complete darkness,” MacLatchy said, adding that wind chill had driven down the temperature to minus 35 C.