The bodies of two adults, a teen and an infant were found only 40 feet from the border.
In a horrific case of human smuggling gone wrong, an Indian family of four died of exposure to extreme weather conditions while crossing over from Canada to the US.
The four bodies – an adult male, an adult female, a teen, and an infant, were found by the Manitoba Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) on January 19 near Emerson, only 40 feet (12 meters) from the border with Minnesota.
RCMP Assistant Commissioner Jane MacLatchy speaking at a news conference in Winnipeg, Manitoba, a day after the tragedy, said: “What I am about to share is going to be difficult for many people to hear… an absolute and heart-breaking tragedy. At this very early stage of the investigation, it appears that they all died due to exposure to the cold weather.”
“These victims faced not only the cold weather, but also endless fields, large snowdrifts and complete darkness,” she said. She also mentioned that wind chill had driven down the temperature to minus 35°C (minus 31 F).
The morning before, RCMP officers received concerning information from their counterparts in the United States who said that US Customs and Border Protection officers had apprehended a group of five Indians travelling on foot, one of whom was carrying a backpack belonging to a family of four who had become separated from the group as they all tried to cross the border, just south of Emerson, Manitoba.
The information further indicated that items meant for an infant was found on one of the adults apprehended, but that no infant was with the group. A search was immediately launched on both sides of the border and soon the bodies of the unfortunate Indian family was located.
The US Attorney’s Office for the District of Minnesota issued a release saying that Steve Shand (47) of Florida had been arrested and charged with human smuggling in connection with the incident. It added that Shand was driving with two passengers who were found to be undocumented foreign nationals from India. Court documents said all the foreign nationals apprehended spoke Gujarati and most had limited or no English-speaking ability.
Meanwhile, External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar has written to the Indian ambassadors in both the United States and Canada to take immediate cognizance of reports of four Indian nationals, including an infant, freezing to death on the US-Canada border.
Mr. Taranjit Singh Sandhu, Ambassador of India to the United States, has stated in a tweet that a consular team from Chicago has been sent to Minnesota to coordinate and provide any assistance required.
High Commissioner of India to Canada, Mr. Ajay Bisaria, has also informed that a consular team is on the way to Manitoba to assist authorities in investigating this disturbing event.