Originally published Jan. 20, 2022
MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A Florida man has been charged with human smuggling after four people, including an infant, were found dead from apparent exposure to the cold Wednesday, just feet away from Minnesota’s border with Canada.
According to the U.S. Department of Justice, Steve Shand, 47, was driving a 15-seater van when he was pulled over by U.S. Border Patrol less than a mile south of the Canadian border on Wednesday. The two passengers in the van were determined to be undocumented Indian nationals.
While the three were taken to the border patrol station in North Dakota, law enforcement saw five more Indian nationals about a quarter mile south of the border. The group said they had walked across the border expecting to be picked up by someone, but had been walking for over 11 hours.
Someone in the group had items for an infant, leading to a search on both sides of the border for more people.
About four hours later, the bodies of a man, woman and infant were found near Emerson, about 40 feet away from the U.S. border. Soon after, the body of a teenage boy was also discovered nearby.
“I am saddened there was loss of life and the fact a small child died makes it even more difficult,” said Grand Forks Sector Chief Patrol Agent Anthony S. Good, in a statement. “Our hearts go out to the families and loved ones. I am also incredibly proud of the Border Patrol Agents and our [Royal Canadian Mounted Police] partners who selflessly endured sub-zero temperatures for hours to search for the missing persons. Their dedication to duty and courage is commendable.”
Investigators are still working on identifying the victims, and autopsies still need to be performed to determine their exact causes of death.
“These individuals, including an infant, were left on their own in the middle of a blizzard,” Manitoba RCMP Assistant Commissioner Jane MacLatchy said, noting temperatures were extremely cold. “These victims faced not only the cold weather, but also endless fields, large snow drifts and complete darkness.”
Two other people in the group suffered serious injuries. One of them, a woman, was airlifted to a hospital in St. Paul for advanced care. The other person, a man, was a treated at a local North Dakota hospital and released into Border Patrol custody.
Shand made his first appearance in court on Thursday.
Minnesota was under a wind chill advisory Tuesday night in to Wednesday. During that time, feels-like temperatures in northern Minnesota were as cold as 29 degrees below zero.