Canadian police have named two of the eight people, including four Indians, whose bodies were found in a marshland area along the US-Canada border, amid an investigation into the circumstances of their deaths.
Bodies of eight persons were recovered last week from the marsh on the riverbank near Akwesasne, a community which straddles Quebec, Ontario and New York state.
Police say the deceased — believed to be two families of Indian and Romanian descent — were trying to cross into the US from Canada. Among them were two children under the age of three, both Canadian citizens.
On Saturday, police said that four Indian nationals, who they believed were a family attempting to cross into the US, have not been identified.
Citing a source with the police in India, the CBC News reported that at least three of them are family members from Gujarat.
The source said the family members include a man in his 50s and a woman and man in their 20s. The age and gender of the fourth Indian national is unknown at this time, the report said.
The identities of other people recovered of Indian descent have not been released, pending identification and notification of next of kin, the Montreal Gazette newspaper reported.
“The circumstances of their deaths continue to be investigated,” the paper added.
“However, it is known that these families were attempting to enter the United States illegally from Canada,” Akwesasne Mohawk Police said.
Akwesasne officials have named two family members of Romanian descent — including a man holding his two children’s passports — who were among eight bodies recovered from the St. Lawrence River, near the Quebec-Ontario border.
“One man has been identified as 28-year-old Florin Iordache. Police said he had two Canadian passports in his possession — one for his two-year-old child and another for his one-year-old infant whose bodies were recovered,” the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) reported.
“One woman — Florin’s wife and the children’s mother — has also been identified as 28-year-old Cristina (Monalisa) Zenaida Iordache,” the report said, quoting the Akwesasne Mohawk Police Service statement.
Police found the bodies of five adults and one infant in the marshland on Friday. Another infant and an adult woman were located later. One of the children was a Canadian citizen.
Akwesasne police are working with Immigration Canada to assist with identifying the victims and notifying the next of kin. They are also increasing surveillance on the river.
“Our hearts are with the families of these victims as we try to work through our own grief for precious lives lost in our territory. Our culture and traditions are based heavily around family and it is difficult for us all to imagine the dreams these families had and the sadness of their deaths.
“This heart-wrenching event profoundly demonstrates the human qualities we all share,” said the Mohawk Council of Akwesasne.
Grand Chief Abram Benedict said the department is committed to understanding how this tragedy occurred and “how we can work with our police department and partners to prevent it from ever happening again.” Valene Gray, the owner of the Three Feathers Cafe, said the community has been shaken by the tragedy.
“In the past couple of days, it’s been very heavy, very emotional, customers coming in and they’re sad. You could tell they were upset, you could tell they were hurting,” Gray said on Saturday.
Wanting to offer support to her community, Gray said it was an honour to be hired by the Mohawk council to make sure all of the volunteer searchers were fed.
She said the cafe has provided breakfast sandwiches for the past two days and supper on Friday.
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.