Indian family who froze to death near US-Canada border identified


Four persons found frozen to death on the Canada-US border last week were from Gujarat’s Dingucha village in Kalol taluka of state capital Gandhinagar district.

They are from the same family who had left for Canada on visitor visas and were exposed to extreme cold while trying to cross the border to the United States in what is believed to be a case of human smuggling.

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), which discovered the bodies on the Canadian side of the border, identified the four as Jagdishkumar Patel, 39, his wife Vaishaliben Patel, 37, daughter Vihangi Patel, 11 and son Dharmik Patel, 3.

The family belonged to Dingucha village in Kalol taluka of Gandhinagar district. Jagdish Patel reportedly paid Rs 70 lakhs($93,023) to human smugglers to help him cross into the US from Canada.

The statement also said, “…this tragedy has brought into focus the need to ensure that migration and mobility are made safe and legal and that such tragedies do not recur.”

On Thursday, Indian authorities in Gujarat told Reuters that they have detained six people who were running a travel and tourism company in the state in relation of the Patels’ case.

In this case, the RCMP said, “The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner of Manitoba has confirmed that the cause of death was due to exposure.” The body added that the family landed in Toronto from India on January 12. They traveled to the town of Emerson on the Canada-US border in Manitoba on, or about January 18.

At a news conference Thursday, RCMP Supt. Rob Hill said, “an autopsy confirmed the husband and wife and their children all died of exposure to the wintery conditions when the temperature was as low as -35 C. Officials initially had mistaken the older child as a boy because the bodies were all in “frozen” state, making the identification process difficult.”

Since no vehicles were found abandoned near the spot where the four bodies were found on the Canadian side of the border, the RCMP said someone drove them to the border and then left.

“We know the Patel family moved around Canada for a period of time and we are looking for anyone that may have had encounters with them,” the RCMP said. It is not yet known when the bodies will be flown to India.

Officials found the victims’ passports in their belongings, but their next-of-kins were only notified Thursday morning. The Indian High Commission on Ottawa, which sent a team from the Consulate in Toronto to Winnipeg to assist the Canadian authorities in the investigations, said the next of kin of the family in India have been informed.


[Photo courtesy: Royal Canadian Mounted Police]