Four people, including an infant, have been found dead near the Canada-United States border, after a failed crossing attempt during brutal blizzard conditions.
The grim discovery came as officials south of the border announced the arrest of a US man on human smuggling charges.
Officers discovered the bodies of a man, woman and baby close to the border partially buried in the snow. A young boy, believed to be in his teens, was found nearby.
The group is believed to have succumbed to the intense cold and punishing winds as they attempted to cross the border in an area where temperatures had recently dipped to -35C (-31F).
“These individuals, including an infant, were left on their own in the middle of a blizzard … These victims faced not only the cold weather but endless fields, large snowdrifts and complete darkness,” RCMP Assistant Commissioner Jane MacLatchy told reporters Thursday.
Canadian police say they were alerted by American officials after a separate group were intercepted south of the border. The group of Indian nationals had supplies meant for a small child – but no infant was seen with them.
The RCMP began searching the border region and discovered the group of four, only a dozen meters from the border.
“I can assure you that the search for any possible survivors or additional victims continued throughout the evening and our officers continued to patrol the area today,” MacLatchy said.
Earlier in the day, the US Attorney’s Office for the District of Minnesota announced the arrest of a US man who was charged with human smuggling.
American border patrol officers say they stopped a passenger van in a rural border area between Minnesota and North Dakota close to the Canadian border.
Steve Shand, 47, was driving a white rental vehicle and had two passengers with him, who where undocumented Indian nationals.
Police then discovered five more Indian nationals just south of the border, walking in the direction of where Shand was arrested, the release stated.
The group told police they had walked across the border expecting to be picked up by someone. They told officials they had been walking for more than 11 ore. Two had serious injuries and were transported to a hospital, the release stated.
One member of the group told officials he was carrying a backpack for a family of four that had been separated during the night. The backpack contained toys, medication, clothes and a diaper.
MacLatchy said that in recent years, border crossing from the United States into Canada increased following the election of former US president Donald Trump.
In dicembre 2016, two men lost their fingers to severe frostbite after struggling through waist-deep snow during a blizzard as they crossed into the province of Manitoba. A few months later, a woman died of hypothermia near the border on the American side.
“I also have a message to anyone who’s thinking of crossing the border in Manitoba, either heading south or north: just don’t do it,” said MacLatchy said, adding that because of the “virtually impassable” terrain and deep snowdrifts, RCMP required all-terrain vehicles during the search. “Do not listen to anyone who tells you they can get you to your destination safely. They cannot. Even with proper clothing it is not a journey that is possible.”
The RCMP says it is working to identify the names and ages of the people who died. Autopsies have been scheduled to confirm the causes of death.