Authorities are investigating a possible human smuggling operation after the bodies of four people, including a baby, were found near the Canadian border on Wednesday, and a group of five people were found walking on the US side .
The tragedy happened in the middle of a blizzard with freezing temperatures.
“These victims faced not only the cold, but also endless fields, great snowdrifts and complete darkness,” Royal Canadian Mounted Police Assistant Commissioner Jane MacLatchy said during the interview. a press conference Thursday about the deaths.
The four dead were found 6 miles east of the Canadian town of Emerson, which straddles the state lines of Minnesota and North Dakota, MacLatchy said.
Their bodies were about 40 feet from the border, she said.
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police said all four – a man, a woman, a man believed to be a teenager and the baby – appeared to have died of exposure to the cold.
US officials said the four are believed to be Indian nationals who were separated overnight from another group of five Indian nationals found walking just south of the Canadian border in Minnesota on Wednesday.
One of the group of five was carrying a backpack containing children’s clothing and said he was from a family of four that separated overnight, the U.S. district attorney’s office said. of Minnesota.
That person told police his group had been marching for 11 a.m. and expected to be picked up by someone after crossing the border, officials said.
Two people in the group of five were seriously injured and were hospitalized, including a woman who will likely have part of her hand amputated, according to court documents.
The group was found walking toward where Steve Shand, 47, of Florida, was arrested earlier Wednesday morning, federal prosecutors said.
Shand was arrested after the US Border Patrol intercepted the van he was driving near the Canadian border. Also inside the van were two Indian nationals without permission to be in the United States as well as boxes of water and snacks, officials said.
Shand is charged with one count related to transporting undocumented people, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.
He appeared in federal court in Minnesota on Thursday and was taken into custody pending a detention hearing scheduled for Monday, court records show. The records do not show that a plea was entered.
Shand declined to speak to police after his arrest, according to an affidavit filed in his criminal case, and a federal public defender listed as the representative did not immediately return a request for comment Thursday evening.
“The investigation into the deaths of the four people in Canada is ongoing, along with an investigation into a larger human smuggling operation of which Shand is suspected to be a part,” the Security Investigations Special Agent wrote. Court, John D. Stanley, in affidavit.
MacLatchy, deputy commissioner of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, urged people not to try to cross or listen to anyone promising safe travel.
“I understand that for some there may be a great need to travel to another country, but that’s not the right way,” MacLatchy said. “You risk your life and the lives of those you care about if you try it.”