indicating it to be In a case of human trafficking, a family of four, including an infant, believed to be from India died due to exposure from extreme cold weather near the US-Canada border, officials said.
Officials on Thursday said that the bodies of four people — two adults, a teen and an infant — were found on the Canadian side of the US/Canada border near Emerson on Wednesday.
Authorities believe it was a failed crossing attempt during the freezing blizzard.
The bodies were discovered amid vast snowdrifts on Wednesday, when the temperature was -35 degrees Celsius (-31 degrees Fahrenheit), accounting for the wind, officials said.
The US Department of Justice has said the four dead were “tentatively identified” as separated members of a group that had been detained earlier in the day while wandering in the snowy fields near the border.
On Thursday, US authorities said a Florida man identified as Steve Shand, 47, had been charged with human smuggling in connection with the group.
According to reports, a US border patrol in North Dakota stopped a passenger van carrying 15 people just south of the Canadian border on Wednesday.
It said that Shand was driving the van with two undocumented Indian nationals.
Around the same time, five other people – all undocumented Indian nationals – were spotted by law enforcement in the snow nearby.
The group said it had been walking for more than 11 hours outside in the freezing and disorienting conditions.
One of the men in the group was carrying a backpack that had baby supplies in it. He told officers it belonged to a family who had become separated from the group overnight, according to court documents.
RCMP Assistant Commissioner Jane MacLatchy told a news conference in Winnipeg Thursday that once Mounties were notified the family may still be in Manitoba officers immediately began to search the area.
After a difficult search in nearly impassible terrain, she said officers found three bodies together — a man, a woman and a baby — just 10 meters from the border near Emerson, Man. 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.
Meanwhile, India’s external affairs minister S Jaishankar expressed shock over the tragedy and asked India’s high envoys to the US and Canada to respond to the situation.