A family of four Indian nationals found frozen to death near the Canada/US border has been identified, with Canadian authorities saying the family had moved around the country for a period of time and was driven to the border by someone in a case being described as that of human smuggling.
Jagdish Baldevbhai Patel, 39, Vaishaliben Jagdishkumar Patel, 37, Vihangi Jagdishkumar Patel, 11 and Dharmik Jagdishkumar Patel, 3, all from the same family, were found dead near Emerson, Manitoba, approximately 12 metres away from the Canada/US border on January 19 by Manitoba Royal Canadian Mounted Police.
The Indian media had already reported that the Patel family had migrated from Dingucha village in Gujarat.
Earlier, authorities had said that the family included an adult male, adult female, teen male and infant. But it has now revealed the victims included a young girl and not a teen male.
Identities of the victims were confirmed by Canadian authorities and autopsies were completed on January 26.
The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner of Manitoba has confirmed that the cause of death was due to exposure, a statement from Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) said on Thursday.
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 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 have been determined to be consistent with exposure to the outdoor elements.
The RCMP confirmed that the Patel family arrived in Toronto on January 12, 2022 and from there they made their way to Emerson around January 18.
“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 travelled 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 a period of 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.
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.
The day Shand was arrested, US Border Patrol authorities had received a report from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police that bodies of the Patel family were found frozen just inside the Canadian side of the international border. Shand has been released from a prison conditionally and without paying a bond.