A Florida man was charged with human smuggling on Thursday after a family of four Indian nationals, including a baby and a teen, were found frozen to death in Canada just yards from the US border, authorities said.
Border patrol agents busted Steve Shand, 47, as he was driving a 15-passenger van with two undocumented Indian citizens inside just south of the Canadian border in North Dakota on Wednesday, according to the US attorney’s office in Minnesota.
Law enforcement later came upon five other Indians on foot heading towards where Shand was arrested. One of them was holding a backpack with baby supplies that belonged to the family of four that got separated from the group while crossing into the US, the office said.
American authorities notified the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, who discovered the family – a man, woman, baby and teen – dead just steps from the border in the province of Manitoba, officials said.
“It is an absolute and heartbreaking tragedy,” RCMP Assistant Commissioner Jane MacLatchy said.
“These victims faced not only the cold weather but also endless fields, large snowdrifts and complete darkness,” she said.
During their trek, the group was facing a wind chill of minus 35 degrees.
Authorities surmised the victims died from exposure to the cold.
The five Indian nationals told authorities they had been walking in the brutal conditions for about 11 hours and were expecting to be picked up by someone.
Shand is expected back in court on Jan. 24.
With Post wires