Authorities say a suspect is facing a human smuggling charge after four people died and two others were sent to the hospital while trying to cross into the United States by foot.
On Wednesday morning, officers with the U.S. Border Patrol (USBP) based out of Pembina, North Dakota conducted a traffic stop less than one mile south of the U.S. border. When they looked inside the 15-passenger van, they found a 47-year-old American driver accompanied by two undocumented Indian nationals in the passenger seats.
Officers found cases of plastic cups, bottled water, bottled juice, and snacks in the extreme rear of the passenger van. They found a rental agreement for the van that expired on Thursday. The three were taken into custody at the Pembina Border Patrol Station. The driver was arrested for smuggling undocumented foreign nationals. The charges have not been proven in court.
Not long afterwards, a group of five Indian nationals were walking in a winter storm just south of the Canadian border when they were picked up by U.S. Border Patrol law enforcement officers.
"The winds were severe, blowing snow, whiteout conditions, severely cold," Assistant Commissioner Jane Maclatchy, Commanding Officer of “D” Division says in the Thursday morning press conference. "At 40 below, the temperatures are just so extreme that it would be pretty hard to be wearing anything appropriate for that."
Authorities say the group looked like they were heading to an unstaffed gas plant located in St. Vincent, Minnesota and were expecting to be picked up.
"The group estimated they had been walking around for over 11 hours," a statement from the District of Minnesota's United States Attorney's Office says.
Two people had serious injuries, requiring transportation to the hospital.
"One of the group members was in possession of a backpack that did not belong to him," they say. "He stated he was carrying the backpack for a family of four Indian nationals that had earlier walked with his group but had become separated during the night."
Inside was children’s clothes, a diaper, toys, and some children’s medication.
At this point, Canada's border was called. At 9:34 a.m., they started the search. At 1:30 p.m., an adult male, adult female, and infant were found dead 40 feet from the U.S. border. A short distance away, a boy, believed to be a teenager, was also found dead.
U.S. authorities say the four were a family of Indian nationals, the missing family from the group who crossed. After searching, RCMP says there are no other bodies.
The 47-year-old driver is being charged with 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. The charge has not been proven in court.
He remains in custody until Monday when he will appear in court.
Maclatchy said Thursday that many different charges could have been laid, including Manslaughter, but does not want to speculate what could happen in the south.