Family of four found frozen to death near Canada-U.S. border identified; RCMP investigation continues
Four people who froze to death while trying to cross the Canada-U.S. border in Manitoba have been identified.
According to a release from the High Commission of India, later confirmed by RCMP on Thursday, the four people have been identified as Jagdish Baldevbhai Patel, a 39-year-old man, Vaishaliben Jagdishkumar Patel, a 37-year-old woman, Vihangi Jagdishkumar Patel, an 11-year-old girl, and Dharmik Jagdishkumar Patel, a three-year-old boy.
The release said the four people were all Indian nationals, adding their next of kin have been notified.
RCMP Chief Superintendent Rob Hill offered an apology for originally identifying the 11-year-old as a male teen.
"Please understand that the frozen state in which the bodies were found and the clothing made by the family made the initial identification difficult. It is also why the process to confirm the names took an extended period of time," said Hill.
Hill said the family of four arrived in Toronto on Jan. 12 and travelled to Emerson, Man. on Jan. 18.
"The Consulate General of India in Toronto is in touch with the family of the deceased and is providing all consular support," the release reads.
The release said, following a medical examination, Canadian authorities have determined all the deaths to be consistent with exposure to outdoor elements.
It said a special team led by a senior consular officer from the Consulate General of India in Toronto is currently in Manitoba helping with the investigation.
"There was no abandoned vehicle on the Canadian side of the border. This clearly indicates that someone drove the family to the border and then left the scene," said Hill.
Hill noted this was a long period of time to travel across the country, especially for a family unfamiliar with Canada.
"A part of the investigation is determining whether this travel was facilitated in some way by an individual or individuals," said Hill, adding RCMP believes people would have had interactions with the Patel family, including hotel, gas station, and restaurant employees.
"We need anyone who had interaction with the Patel family or has information about their journey to the border to think about what they went through, and to step forward."
For the Indian community in Manitoba, knowing who the identity of the family is a step closer to closure.
"The community is very strongly looking forward for answers," said Ramandeep Grewal, president of the India Association of Manitoba.
"We will be looking forward to having some closure into this episode and having the bad actors behind bars so that this cannot be repeated and that the vulnerable people are not paying off these traffickers anymore."
According to U.S. officials, it is believed the family ended up separated from a large group of seven Indian migrants who were arrested trying to enter the U.S. from Canada.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection told CTV News the migrants will be deported, saying they were administratively processed for removal or placed into removal proceedings last week.
"All the migrants have been released from Border Patrol’s custody and ordered to report to ICE at a later date," they said in a statement.
Steve Shand, a man from Florida, has been charged in the U.S. with human smuggling. The charges have not been proven in court.
If anyone has information that they can share with the RCMP, they’re encouraged to call 431-489-8551 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477.
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