The Manitoba Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) on Thursday said that the bodies of four people  two adults, a teen and an infant  were found on the Canadian side of the US-Canada border near Emerson on Wednesday.

India’s high commissioner to Canada, Ajay Bisaria, described the deaths as a “grave tragedy”, and announced that a consular team was travelling to Manitoba to aid in the investigation. 

India’s ambassador to the United States said staff from the Chicago consulate were also heading to Minnesota.

“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,” said John Stanley, a special agent with Homeland Security Investigations, in court documents.

US officials announced the arrest of Steve Shand, who faces charges of human smuggling. Shand, 47, is due to appear in court on 24 January. According to sources And post mortem of the 4 dead bodies to be done on the same day

“Shocked by the report that 4 Indian nationals, including an infant, have lost their lives at the Canada-US border. Have asked our Ambassadors in the US and Canada to urgently respond to the situation,” Jaishankar tweeted.

Earlier  US border patrol agents soon came across five more Indians traveling on foot, one of whom was carrying a backpack belonging to a family of four who had become separated from the group as they all tried to cross the border.

They alerted Canadian police who found the victims – a man, a woman, a teenage boy and a baby – about 40 feet (12 meters) from the frontier with Minnesota. First indications are that they died from exposure to the cold.

“These victims faced not only the cold weather, but also endless fields, large snowdrifts and complete darkness,” Royal Canadian Mounted Police Assistant Commissioner Jane MacLatchy told a televised news conference in Winnipeg, Manitoba.

According to court documents, US Border Patrol (USBP) officials in North Dakota stopped a 15-passenger van just south of the Canadian border on Wednesday.

The US Attorney’s Office for the District of Minnesota issued a release late Thursday afternoon and said the driver was identified as 47-year-old Steve Shand of Florida, who had been arrested and charged with human smuggling in connection with the incident.

Law enforcement officials have also determined that there were two undocumented Indian nationals, the Department of Justice said.

The court documents said that law enforcement officials discovered cases of plastic cups, bottled water, bottled juice, and snacks located in the extreme rear of the passenger van.

They also discovered receipts dated January 18, 2022, for the drinks and snacks, and rental agreement receipts in Shand’s name for the van, with the return date listed for January 20, 2022.

As they were taking the trio back to the border patrol station in North Dakota, officers came across another group of five Indian nationals walking.

They told them that they had walked across the border and expected to be picked up by someone.

The group said they estimated they had been walking for more than 11 hours, and they appeared to be headed to an unstaffed gas plant located in St. Vincent, Minnesota.

One of the group members was carrying a backpack that did not belong to him.

He told authorities that he was carrying the backpack for a family of four Indian nationals that had earlier walked with his group but got separated at night.

The backpack contained children’s clothes, a diaper, toys, and some children’s medication.

According to court documents, on January 19, the USBP received a report from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police that four bodies were found frozen just inside the Canadian side of the international border.

The dead bodies were tentatively identified as the family of four that got separated.

Two of the surviving Indian nationals sustained serious injuries and were transported to a hospital.