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Florida man charged after 4 found dead at Canada-U.S. border in alleged smuggling attempt

Border marker between the U.S. and Canada
A border marker between the U.S. and Canada stands just outside of Emerson, in Manitoba.
(John Woods / Canadian Press)

A Florida man has been charged with human smuggling after the bodies of four people, including a baby and a teenager, were found in Canada near the U.S. border in what authorities believe was a failed crossing attempt during a freezing blizzard.

Steve Shand, 47, was charged Thursday with human smuggling after seven Indian nationals were found in the U.S. and the discovery of the four dead, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Minnesota said.

Court documents filed Wednesday in support of Shand’s arrest allege that one of the people spent a significant amount of money to come to Canada with a fraudulent student visa.

“The investigation into the death of the four individuals in Canada is ongoing along with an investigation into a larger human smuggling operation of which Shand is suspected of being a part,” John Stanley, a special agent with Homeland Security Investigations, said in court documents.

According to documents, U.S. Border Patrol in North Dakota stopped a 15-passenger van just south of the Canadian border Wednesday. Shand was driving, and court documents allege that he was with two Indian nationals.

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Around the same time, court documents said, five other people were spotted by law enforcement in the snow nearby. The five, who were also Indian nationals, told officers they’d been walking for more than 11 hours in frigid conditions.

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A woman stopped breathing several times as she was taken to a hospital. Court documents said she would require partial amputation of her hand. A man was also hospitalized for frostbite but was later released.

One of the men in the group was carrying a backpack with baby supplies in it. Court documents said he told officers it belonged to a family that had become separated from the group overnight.

Royal Canadian Mounted Police Assistant Commissioner Jane MacLatchy told a news conference in Winnipeg on Thursday that once Mounties were notified that the family might still be in Manitoba, officers immediately began to search the area.

After a difficult search in nearly impassable terrain, officers found three bodies together — a man, a woman and a baby — just 10 yards from the border near Emerson, Manitoba, MacLatchy said. The search continued and a teenage boy was found a short distance away. It is believed they died from exposure.

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“It is an absolute and heartbreaking tragedy,” MacLatchy said.

They were wearing winter clothing, she said, but it would not have been enough to save them in the freezing conditions.

“These victims faced not only the cold weather but also endless fields, large snowdrifts and complete darkness,” MacLatchy added.

Shand was arrested Wednesday and remains in custody. American authorities allege in court documents that he had likely been involved in other border crossings, including two recent incidents in December.

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Officials in both countries said it is more common to see crossings north from the U.S. into Canada. Border crossings into Canada on foot increased in 2016 following the election of former President Trump.

That December, two men lost their fingers to severe frostbite after getting caught in a blizzard while walking from the U.S. into Manitoba. A few months later, a woman died of hypothermia near the border on the American side.

In 2019, a pregnant woman who walked across the border was rescued after she became trapped in a snowbank and went into labor.


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