Photo released of Indian family who froze to death on Canadian border

‘We believe this is a case of human smuggling and are investigating’ the Royal Canadian Mounted Police has said

Sravasti Dasgupta
Friday 28 January 2022 14:36
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<p>An Indian family who were found dead at the US Canada border have been identified</p>

An Indian family who were found dead at the US Canada border have been identified

An Indian family of four who died due to exposure to the cold while crossing the US-Canada border earlier this month have been identified, authorities said on Thursday.

Canadian border patrol officials, along with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), found the bodies of a family of four, including a man, woman, baby and a young girl, just 10 metres away from the border in the Canadian province of Manitoba on 19 January.

The group had faced a blizzard with the temperature dipping as low as -35F (-37C).

In a tweet on Thursday, the RCMP identified the deceased as Jagdish Kumar Patel, 39, Vaishaliben Patel, 37, and their 11-year-old daughter Vihangi Patel and 3-year-old son Dharmil Patel.

“All are from the same family and all Indian nationals. The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner of MB [Manitoba] has confirmed that the cause of death was due to exposure,” the RCMP said.

Authorities said the family had arrived in Toronto on 12 January and made their way to Emerson on or around 18 January.

Officials said no abandoned vehicle was found which indicated that someone drove them to the border and left.

“We believe this is a case of human smuggling and are investigating how the Patel family travelled from Toronto on Jan 12 to Emerson on 18 January,” the RCMP said.

Authorities have also urged the community to reach out with any additional information.

Mr Patel had previously worked as a schoolteacher in the western Indian state of Gujarat and had later switched to running different businesses, reported The Indian Express.

In a statement, India’s High Commission in Ottawa said it was working with the Indian Consulate in Toronto and Canadian authorities on the investigation.

“A special team, led by a senior consular officer, from the Consulate General of India in Toronto, is camping in Manitoba to assist ongoing investigation by Canadian agencies and to render any consular services for the victims,” the statement said.

“On longer-term issues that this tragedy has brought into focus the need to ensure that migration and mobility are made safe and legal and that such tragedies don’t recur,” it added.

The family’s death has shocked the Indian community in Manitoba, reported the BBC.

“There’s a common sense of feeling guilty, like something has gone wrong,” Randeep Grewal, president of the India Association of Manitoba, told the broadcaster.

“You don’t expose yourself to that degree of cold for minutes, let alone hours.”

Authorities had last week arrested Steve Shand, a Florida man in a large van, near the border. Mr Shand allegedly had two undocumented Indian nationals in his van.

The US homeland security is also investigating the death of the Patel family, alongside a “larger human smuggling operation of which [Steve] Shand is suspected of playing a part”.

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