Family of 4, Including Infant, Found Frozen Near Canada Border — Suspect Arrested for Human Smuggling

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Family of 4, Including Infant, Found Frozen Near Canada Border — Suspect Arrested for Human Smuggling
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The frozen bodies of four people, including an infant, were found near the Canadian border on Wednesday, and a Florida man has been arrested on human smuggling charges related to the case.

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Authorities believe the four people — a man, a woman, a teenage boy and the infant — were part of the same family from India.

According to a statement from the US Attorney’s Office for the District of Minnesota, U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents stopped a white 15-passenger van driven by 47-year-old Steve Shand on Wednesday. The van was found in a rural area between two ports of entry: Lancaster, Minnesota, and Pembina, North Dakota.

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When agents inspected the vehicle, they found two Indian nationals inside. They arrested Shand for smuggling undocumented foreign nationals.

While Shand and the passengers were being transported to the Pembina Border Patrol Station in North Dakota, law enforcement ran across five additional Indian nationals about a quarter mile south of the Canadian border walking in the direction of where Shand was arrested, the statement alleges.

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The nationals told Border Patrol agents that they had walked across the border expecting to be picked up by someone, but no one had ever shown up. The group estimated they had been walking around in the bitter cold for more than 11 hours.

One of the group members was carrying a backpack that he said did not belong to him. He told authorities that he was carrying the backpack for a family of four Indian nationals that had earlier walked with his group but had become separated during the night. According to the U.S. Attorney’s office, the backpack contained children’s clothes, a diaper, toys, and some children’s medication.

Later that day, four bodies were found frozen just over the Canadian side of the border. The dead bodies have been tentatively identified as the family of four that was separated from the rest of the group.

“It is an absolute and heartbreaking tragedy,” Assistant Commissioner Jane MacLatchy of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police said at a news conference on Thursday, according to the New York Times. She added that it appears that all four victims died due to exposure to the cold.

Temperatures dipped well below zero on Wednesday, when the bodies were found.

Two of the surviving Indian nationals suffered serious injuries and were transported to a hospital. Their condition is not currently known.

According to the U.S. Attorney’s office, Shand has been charged with one count of “knowing or in reckless disregard of the fact that an alien had come to, entered, or remained in the United States in violation of law, having transported, and moved or having attempted to transport and move such aliens.”

In a news conference on Friday morning, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said that his government is working with the United States government to prevent people from being smuggled across the border.

Speaking in French, Trudeau said that human traffickers seem to have taken advantage of a family’s desire to seek a better life in America.

Shand is being held without bond until a preliminary hearing next week. He has not yet entered a plea and it is unclear if he has retained an attorney.

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