Identities confirmed in deaths of family of 4 on Manitoba-U.S. border; RCMP plead for info

The identities of a family who perished in Manitoba were released Thursday.

Last week, RCMP said they found four people, including a young child and a teenager, dead only metres from the Canada-U.S. border, about 10 kilometres from Emerson, Man.

The four have now 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.

RCMP apologized for initially identifying Vihangi Patel as a boy.

Jagdish Baldevbhai Patel (left to right), son Dharmik Jagdishkumar Patel, wife and mother Vaishaliben Jagdishkumar Patel and daughter Vihangi Jagdishkumar Patel are shown in a handout photo. Officials in Ottawa say they have confirmed the identities of four Indian nationals whose bodies were found frozen in Manitoba near the Canada-U.S. border last week. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Amritbhai Vakil. Handout

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“All four were Indian nationals,” said the High Commission of India in Ottawa. “The next of kin of the deceased have been informed.”

“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 night the four left, Jan. 19, temperatures hovered near -30 C with strong winds, blowing snow and blizzard-like conditions.

RCMP said they are still investigating how the family managed to make it to Emerson.

RCMP search for victims near the U.S./Canada border.
RCMP search for victims near the U.S./Canada border. RCMP Manitoba

The four first arrived in Toronto on Jan. 12, 2022, said RCMP criminal operations officer Rob Hill, and from there made their way to Manitoba. Eventually, they travelled to Emerson on or about Jan. 19, he said.

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There was no vehicle found on the Canadian side of the border, said Hill, leading investigators to “believe this to be a case of human smuggling.”

RCMP are they are looking at “every aspect” of the family’s stay in Canada, and said anyone who had interactions with them is asked to call RCMP at 431-489-8551.

“Any information about their time in Canada will be incredibly helpful to our investigators.”

A Florida man was arrested following their deaths. 

Steve Shand is seen in an undated handout photo at the Grand Forks County Correctional Center in North Dakota. Shand was arrested after the bodies of four people were found near the Canada-U.S. border near Emerson, Man. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Grand Forks County Correctional Center. GAC

Steve Shand is a former waiter who ran his own taxi business and declared bankruptcy four years ago. He was taken into custody last week.

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Shand is charged with human smuggling — specifically, one count of knowing or in reckless disregard of the fact that an alien had come to, entered or remained in the United States in violation of law, having transported and moved or having attempted to transport and move such aliens.

U.S. authorities said they suspect Shand may be part of a larger network that has been smuggling Indian nationals into Minnesota from Manitoba by foot in frigid winter temperatures.

According to U.S. officials, the four were part of a larger group of Indian nationals who were attempting to cross into the U.S. illegally.

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One of the Indian nationals who survived the trek across the border told U.S. Border Patrol he had paid a large sum of money to come to Canada from India under a fraudulent student visa. He said he had no intention of staying or studying in Canada but was instead intending to cross into the U.S. illegally.

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In addition to the four people who died during the attempt to cross the border, two others were seriously injured — a man and a woman suffered severe frostbite.

According to an affidavit by U.S. Special Agent John D. Stanley, five members of the group were decked out in matching outdoor gear.

“I observed that five of them were outfitted with identical cold weather gear. They each had what appeared to be new black-in-color winter coats with fur trimmed hoods, black gloves, black balaclavas and insulated rubber boots,” Stanley said in his affidavit.

One person in the group had a backpack he told officials he was carrying for a family of four that had become separated from the larger group. The backpack contained children’s items such as clothes, a diaper and toys.

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RCMP would not say last week what the four who died were wearing.

— with files from Stewart Bell

© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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