Canadian authorities have identified the four family members found dead near the Minnesota-Canada border during dangerous winter conditions.
The four victims are all members of the Patel family, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) said Thursday. They are:
- Jagdishkumar Patel, a 39-year-old male
- Vaishaliben Patel, a 37-year-old female
- Vihangi Patel, an 11-year-old female
- Dharmik Patel, a 3-year-old male
All four are Indian nationals, the RCMP said, and arrived in Toronto on Jan. 12, a week prior to their deaths about 40 feet from the border into Minnesota. Authorities have said the family may be victims of human smuggling.
All four died from exposure to the cold, the RCMP confirmed.
Shortly after they were found dead, the U.S. Department of justice charged a Florida man believed to be involved in the operation with human smuggling. Authorities also came across five other Indian nationals, walking in bitterly cold temperatures about a quarter-mile south of the Canadian border. One of them told law enforcement they'd previously been walking with a family of four, but the groups had become separated during the night.
Canadian authorities are still trying to piece together how the Patels got from Toronto to the border.
The four arrived in Emerson, Manitoba — about 6 miles north of the border — on or near Jan. 18, the RCMP said. They don't yet know how the family traveled more than 1,000 miles from Toronto to the small, unincorporated community.
Investigators also said they did not find an abandoned vehicle anywhere on the Canadian side of the border, suggesting the family had been dropped off near the crossing by someone else, who then left the scene.