Four people, including an infant, have been found dead near the Canada-US border, after a failed attempt to cross during brutal blizzard conditions.
The grim discovery came as officials south of the border announced the arrest of an American man on human smuggling charges.
Officers discovered the bodies of a man, a woman and a baby near the border partially buried in snow. A boy, believed to be a teenager, was found nearby.
The group is believed to have succumbed to intense cold and strong winds while trying to cross the border in an area where temperatures had recently dropped to -35C (-31F).
“These people, including a baby, were left alone in the middle of a snow storm… These victims faced not only cold weather but also endless fields, large snow drifts and total darkness,” Deputy Commissioner of RCMP, Jane MacLatchy.
Canadian police say they were alerted by US officials after a separate group was intercepted south of the border. The group of Indian nationals had supplies intended for a young child, but no babies were seen with them.
The RCMP began searching the border region and discovered the group of four, just a dozen meters from the border.
“I can assure you that the search for possible survivors or additional victims continued overnight and our officers continued to patrol the area today,” MacLatchy said.
Earlier in the day, the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Minnesota announced the arrest of an American man who was accused of human trafficking.
US border patrol officers say they stopped a passenger van in a rural border area between Minnesota and North Dakota, near the Canadian border.
Steve Shand, 47, was driving a white rental vehicle and had two passengers with him, who were undocumented Indian nationals.
Police then discovered five more Indian nationals south of the border, walking in the direction of where Shand was arrested, according to the statement.
The group told police that they had crossed the border hoping someone would pick them up. They told officials that they had been walking for more than 11 hours. Two suffered serious injuries and were transported to a hospital, according to the statement.
One member of the group told authorities that he was carrying a backpack for a family of four who had become separated overnight. The backpack contained toys, medication, clothing and a diaper.
MacLatchy said that in recent years, border crossings from the United States into Canada increased following the election of former US President Donald Trump.
In December 2016, two men lost their fingers to severe frostbite after struggling through waist-deep snow during a blizzard while crossing into the province of Manitoba. A few months later, a woman died of hypothermia near the border on the US side.
“I also have a message for anyone thinking of crossing the border into Manitoba, whether it’s going south or north: just don’t do it,” MacLatchy said, adding that due to the “virtually impassable” terrain and large snowdrifts , RCMP ATVs required during search. “Don’t listen to anyone who tells you they can get you to your destination safely. They can not. Even with the right clothes, it’s not a possible trip.”
The RCMP says it is working to identify the names and ages of the people who have died. Autopsies have been scheduled to confirm the causes of death.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism