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Indian family among 8 found dead near US-Canada border

Members of an Indian family drowned in the St Lawrence River while attempting to cross into the US from Canada illegally.

Edited By: Arushi Jaiswal Ottawa (Canada) Published on: April 01, 2023 7:59 IST
US-Canada border, Indian family, dead
Image Source : AP The bodies of people were found in a marsh on the riverbank.

Ottawa: Members of an Indian family were among eight people found dead near the Canada-US border after they illegally tried to cross the St Lawrence River into the United States near Akwesasne, police said Friday.  According to Shawn Dulude, the police chief for the nearby Kanien'kehá:ka community of Akwesasne, the bodies are those of six adults and two children-one under the age of three who had a Canadian passport, the other an infant who was also a Canadian citizen, news agency ANI reported quoting Canadian news outlets CBC.

Police officials further the bodies are believed to be from two families one of an Indian family and the other believed to be Romanian citizens who were attempting to cross into the US.

Storm could have caused tragedy

They found the bodies in a marsh on the riverbank and the IDs of the victims have not yet been released. Lee-Ann O'Brien, the deputy chief of police for the Akwesasne Mohawk police service said that a storm brought high winds and sleet into the area and that could have caused the tragedy. "It was not a good time to be out on the water. It could have been anything that caused this tragedy," he said. "It could have been a faulty boat, it could have been human error and that the investigation will determine."

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According to police, Casey Oakes, a 30-year-old Akwesasne resident is still missing. Oakes was last seen on Wednesday boarding a small, light blue vessel and leaving Cornwall Island. He was later reported missing, leading to the search operation that led to the discovery of bodies.

O'Brien said police found Casey Oakes's vessel near the bodies on Friday.

Kevin Sturge Lazore, captain of the Akwasasne Fire Department's Station 3, sent 15 volunteer firefighters to search the river on Thursday after Casey Oakes's family reported him missing. Another dozen or so volunteers from other stations also joined in the search effort.

According to Lazore, the firefighters found the boat, its hull dented on the bottom as if it had hit ice or rock. Kevin Sturge Lazore and Lee-Ann O'Brien said the boat was small and wouldn't have been able to safely take seven or eight people.

'Heartbreaking situation'

Reacting to the incident, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Friday said that there are many questions that need answers about what happened to the two families.

“This is a heartbreaking situation, particularly given the young child that was among them,” he said during a news conference in New Brunswick.

“Our thoughts are first and foremost with the families who are suffering the loss of loved ones right now. We need to understand properly what happened. Do whatever we can to make sure we are minimizing the chances of it happening again," he said.

Akwesasne police say there have been 48 incidents of people trying to cross illegally into Canada or into the United States through the Mohawk territory since January, and most of them have been of Indian or Romanian descent.

In January 2022, the bodies of four Indians, including a baby, were found frozen in Manitoba near the Canada-US border in April 2022, six Indian nationals were rescued from a sinking boat in the St. Regis River, which runs through Akwesasne Mohawk Territory. In April 2022, six Indian nationals were rescued from a sinking boat in the St Regis River, which runs through Akwesasne Mohawk Territory.

(With agencies input)

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