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St Paul (KROC AM News) -  Authorities are reporting a tragedy along the Minnesota/Canadian border.

A Florida man was charged with human smuggling by the US Attorney’s office in Minnesota after a family of four people, including a baby, was found frozen to death near the border on Wednesday.

The man - identified as 47-year-old Steve Shand - was stopped while driving a 15 passenger van on a remote road in northwest Minnesota. There were two undocumented Indian nationals in the van. He had apparently planned to pick up a total of 11 Indian nationals who were trying to cross the border into Minnesota.

Authorities later found five more Indian nationals who said they had been walking in a blizzard for 11 hours. Two had suffered serious weather-related injuries. Temperatures had fallen to around -30 degrees at the time. The frozen bodies were found a few hours later. The victims had apparently become separated from the group.

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

Here is the press release from RCMP:

On the morning of January 19, 2022, RCMP officers with the Integrated Border Enforcement Team received concerning information from their counterparts in the United States.

Specifically, the information outlined that officers with the US Customs and Border Protection had apprehended a group of individuals who had crossed into the US from Canada, near the town of Emerson, Manitoba. Further, it indicated that one of the adults had items meant for an infant but that no infant was with the group.

Upon receiving this information at 9:23 am, a search was immediately launched on both sides of the border.

RCMP officers were already patrolling the area and the search began at 9:24am. Extensive patrols were conducted and, at approximately 1:30pm, the bodies of three individuals were located on the Canadian side of the border, approximately 10km east of Emerson.

They have been identified as:

An adult male;
An adult female; and
An infant.
Fearing there may be additional victims, officers continued their search and located the body of an additional male, believed at this time to be in his mid-teens.

All victims were located approximately 12 metres from the US/Canada border.

At this very early stage of the investigation, it appears that they all died due to exposure to the cold weather. Work is underway to identify the victims and an autopsy has been scheduled to confirm the cause of death.

 

Here is the information from the US Attorney's Office in St Paul:

According to court documents, on January 19, 2022, law enforcement agents with Homeland Security Investigations responded to a request for assistance from the U.S. Border Patrol (USBP) based out of Pembina, North Dakota. USBP initiated a traffic stop on a white-colored, fifteen passenger van less than one mile south of the U.S./Canadian border in a rural area between the official ports of entry located at Lancaster, Minnesota and Pembina, North Dakota. The driver of the vehicle was identified as Steve Shand, 47, a U.S. citizen. Law enforcement asked for identification of the two passengers in the van and determined them to be undocumented Indian nationals.

According to court documents, law enforcement discovered cases of plastic cups, bottled water, bottled juice, and snacks located in the extreme rear of the passenger van. Law enforcement also discovered receipts dated January 18, 2022, for the drinks and snacks, and rental agreement receipts in Shand’s name for the van, with the return date listed for January 20, 2022. USBP arrested Shand for smuggling undocumented foreign nationals. While Shand and the two passengers were being transported to the Pembina Border Patrol Station in North Dakota, law enforcement encountered five additional Indian nationals approximately a quarter mile south of the Canadian border walking in the direction of where Shand was arrested. They appeared to be headed to an unstaffed gas plant located in St. Vincent, Minnesota. The five Indian nationals explained that they had walked across the border expecting to be picked up by someone. The group estimated they had been walking around for over 11 hours. One of the group members was in possession of a backpack that did not belong to him. He stated 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. The backpack contained children’s clothes, a diaper, toys, and some children’s medication.

According to court documents, later during the day on January 19, 2022, USBP received a report from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police that four bodies were found frozen just inside the Canadian side of the international border. The dead bodies were tentatively identified as the family of four that was separated. Two of the surviving Indian nationals sustained serious injuries and were transported to a hospital.

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