I know that what I'm about to share is going to be difficult for so many to hear. I am here to advise you of the discovery of four deceased individuals in Manitoba near the Canada/US border.
It is, without a doubt, an absolute and heartbreaking tragedy and I offer my condolences, and that of the RCMP, to every family member and loved one who is affected.
Yesterday morning, RCMP officers with the Integrated Border Enforcement Team received concerning information from their counterparts in the United States.
Specifically, it outlined that US Customs and Border Protection officers had apprehended a group of individuals who had crossed into the US from Canada, just south of Emerson, Manitoba.
Further, it indicated that one of the adults was carrying items meant for an infant but that no infant was with the group.
Upon receiving this information at 9:23 am, a search was immediately launched on both sides of the border.
Our officers were very near the area and the search began at 9:24am.
Extensive patrols were conducted and, at approximately 1:30pm, RCMP officers discovered the bodies of three individuals on the Canadian side of the border, approximately 10km east of Emerson.
The victims have been identified as:
· An adult male;
· An adult female; and
· An infant.
Fearing there may be additional victims, officers continued their search and located the body of another male – believed at this time to be a teen.
All victims were located approximately 9-12 metres from the border and, at this very early stage of the investigation, it appears that they all died due to exposure to the cold weather.
I can assure you that the search for any possible survivors or additional victims continued throughout the evening of Wednesday, January 19, and our officers continue to patrol the area today. To date, no other victims have been located.
Please understand that it will take time to identify the names, ages and nationalities of the victims.
You'll note that I am using the term victims and that is certainly on purpose.
We are very concerned that this may have been facilitated in some way and that these individuals, including an infant, were left in the middle of a blizzard when the weather hovered around -35 degrees Celsius when factoring the wind.
These victims faced not only the cold weather but also endless fields, large snowdrifts, and complete darkness.
We don't know how these individuals got to Emerson but our investigators are certainly going to look into every aspect of these deaths.
As we suspect the group is tied to the individuals found on the US side of the border, we are working in close collaboration with U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the U.S Department of Homeland Security.
All of our agencies are committed to a thorough and comprehensive investigation.
I also have a message to anyone who is thinking of crossing the border in Manitoba, either heading south or north.
Don't do it. Do not listen to anyone who tells you they can get you to your destination safely. They can't. Even with the proper clothing, it is not a journey that is possible.
This morning, taking the severe wind chill into account, it was -41 degrees Celsius in the Emerson area. At this temperature, your skin will freeze in minutes.
I understand there may be a great need to get to another country, but this is not the way. You will be risking your life and the lives of the people you care about.
We simply cannot have another tragedy of this magnitude in Manitoba or in Canada.