US charges man with human smuggling after 4 freeze to death near Canada border

Royal Canadian Mounted Police on the scene where four people were found dead near the US-Canada border. PHOTO: AFP

WASHINGTON (REUTERS) - US authorities on Thursday (Jan 20) charged a man with human smuggling of Indian nationals from Canada, the day after four people including a baby were found frozen to death in a remote part of Canada close to the Minnesota border.  

The US attorney’s office in Minnesota said 47-year-old Steve Shand had been arrested just south of the border on Wednesday while driving two undocumented Indian citizens.  

US border patrol agents soon came across five more Indians traveling on foot, one of whom was carrying a backpack belonging to a family of four who had become separated from the group as they all tried to cross the border.  

They alerted Canadian police who found the victims – a man, a woman, a teenage boy and a baby – about 40 feet (12m) from the frontier with Minnesota.

First indications are that they died from exposure to the cold.  Wind chill had driven down the temperature to minus 35 deg C.

“These victims faced not only the cold weather, but also endless fields, large snowdrifts and complete darkness,” Royal Canadian Mounted Police Assistant Commissioner Jane MacLatchy told a televised news conference in Winnipeg, Manitoba. 

The US attorney’s office said in a statement that the four victims had tentatively been identified as the missing Indian family.  

The five Indian nationals explained they had walked across the border expecting to be picked up by someone and estimated they had been walking around for over 11 hours.  

Shand has been charged with one count of human smuggling. He is next due in court on Jan 24. 

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.