Toronto: The family of four which froze to death at the US-Canada Border has been identified. The family belonged to India. The Canadian authorities have said that the family had moved around the country for some time and was driven to the border by someone in a case being described as that of human smuggling.
The four are identified as Jagdish Baldevbhai Patel, 39, Vaishaliben Jagdishkumar Patel, 37, Vihangi Jagdishkumar Patel, 11 and Dharmik Jagdishkumar Patel, 3. All of them were from the same family and were found dead near Emerson, Manitoba, approximately 12 meters from the Canada/US border on January 19 by Manitoba Royal Canadian Mounted Police.
Earlier the authorities had stated that the family included an adult male, adult female, teen male, and infant. But it has now been revealed the victims included a young girl and not a teen male. Their identities have been confirmed by Canadian authorities and autopsies were completed on January 26.
As per the statement from Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner of Manitoba has confirmed that the cause of death was due to exposure.
India's High Commission in Ottawa, Canada said in a press release, which also identified the four victims, that the next of family of the victims have been informed.
The Consulate General of India in Toronto is in touch with the family of the victims and is providing all consular support.
"The High Commission offers its sincere condolences to the family and friends of the victims," it said.
The press release from the Indian High Commission added that Canadian authorities have also, after medical examination, informed that based on the circumstances, the death of all the persons has been determined to be consistent with exposure to the outdoor elements.
"There was no abandoned vehicle located on the Canadian side of the border. This indicates that someone drove the family to the border and then left the scene," RCMP said adding that it is looking to determine how they traveled from Toronto to Emerson.
"With what we know so far of their activities in Canada, along with the arrest that occurred in the United States, we believe this to be a case of human smuggling," it said.
RCMP said the Patel family moved around Canada for some time and "we are looking for anyone that may have had encounters with them." A criminal complaint was filed last week 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.
Shand, a "suspected smuggler of undocumented foreign nationals" was arrested by American authorities near the US/Canadian border on January 19 for transporting two Indian nationals, who were illegally present in the US.
The two Indian nationals have been identified as 'SP' and 'YP' in the complaint. A group of five Indian nationals "illegally present in the United States were also identified and arrested" around the time of Shand's arrest.
On the day when Shand was arrested, US Border Patrol authorities had received a report from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police of the Patel family found dead at the US-Canadian Border. The Patel family was found frozen just inside the Canadian side of the international border.
Without paying the bond, Shand has been released from prison conditionally.
The discovery of bodies has led to a big probe.
A special team, led by a senior consular officer from the Consulate General of India in Toronto, is camping in Manitoba to assist ongoing investigations by Canadian agencies and to render any consular services for the victims, the High Commission said.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said that his government was doing all it can and working "very closely" with the US to stop human smuggling, a day after a family of four Indians, including a baby, died from exposure to extreme cold weather on the Canadian side of the border with America.