Baby among four found dead along US-Canada border

Four bodies found in freezing conditions along the US-Canada border after apparently being abandoned by human smugglers.

US Canada Border smuggling route
Royal Canadian Mounted Police at the scene where four people were found dead near the US-Canada border [AFP]

Four people, including an infant, have been found dead in freezing conditions along the United States-Canada border after apparently being abandoned by human smugglers, authorities said.

Officials on Thursday said the bodies of two adults and a baby were discovered a day earlier by the US border and about 10km (6 miles) from the town of Emerson in Canada’s central Manitoba province.

Police said a fourth person – who appeared to be a teenage boy – was found dead nearby shortly after.

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police said in a statement “it appears that they all died due to exposure to the cold weather”.

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.

Emerson Manitoba canada
The town of Emerson in Manitoba, Canada is along a route which migrants and asylum seekers use to travel between the US and Canada [Lyle Stafford/Reuters]

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.

Shand had been stopped near the border in the US state of North Dakota on Wednesday while driving in a van with two undocumented Indian nationals, authorities said. 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.

Across the border, Manitoba Assistant Commissioner Jane MacLatchy told a news conference, “This attempted crossing may have been facilitated in some way and that these individuals including an infant were left on their own in the middle of a blizzard when the weather had hovered around minus 35 degrees Celsius, factoring the wind.”

“These victims face not only the cold weather, but also endless fields, large snowdrifts, and complete darkness,” she added.

Court documents filed by US authorities said among the survivors, one woman in the group will require partial amputation of her hand, while another was hospitalised for frostbite but was later released.

Authorities also alleged that Shand has likely been involved in other border crossings, including two recent incidents in December, according to the court filings.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies