The search continued Monday in the community of Akwesasne, where a 30-year-old man, Casey Oakes, has been missing since Wednesday evening. No new information has been made public by the investigators. Indian police, however, revealed that the four Indian nationals whose bodies were found in the river were traveling to Canada on tourist visas.
“At this time, [we have] no new information to share,” the Akwesasne Mohawk Police Service said in a news release Monday.
The police force nevertheless assured that the search will continue on Tuesday with the help of several personnel, including divers from the Sûreté du Québec (SQ) who “will return to the search” and air support from the Quebec police force. “Please avoid search areas and the command post at this time,” authorities also requested. “Local waterways continue to be searched. The police estimate that there are eight kilometers of waterways to search,” local police also said.
Casey Oakes was last seen at 9:30 p.m. last Wednesday. He was then in the process of launching a pale blue boat, at the eastern tip of Cornwall Island. He wore black snow pants, a black sweater, a black toque and a black face covering. Police are yet to confirm a potential link between the discovery of eight dead migrants in recent days and Mr Oakes’ disappearance.
Mehsana city police superintendent in western India, Achal Tyagi, also confirmed to The Canadian Press on Monday that the four Indians who died last week were members of the Chaudhari family: Father , Praveenbhai Chaudhari, 50, mother, Dakshaben, 45, son, Meet, 20, and daughter, Vidhi, 23.
Mr. Praveenbhai was a farmer, Superintendent Tyagi said, adding that the family was from Mehsana district, which has a population of about 1.8 million. Indian police have opened an investigation and met with members of the Chaudhari family on Monday, he said.
On Saturday, the identity of the other family, of Romanian origin, had been made public by the authorities. They are Florin Iordache and Cristina Zenaida Iordache, both 28 years old and from Romania, and their two children aged 2 and 1, in possession of Canadian passports.
According to information first broadcast by Radio-Canada, Florin Iordache had seen his asylum application refused shortly before the tragedy. At the time of the events, he was therefore about to be expelled from the country. Relatives of the family also said that Mr. Iordache and his wife had resided in the Toronto area for more than a year. He was also planned to be picked up with his family from New York State.
In writing, the spokesperson for the Bureau du coroner du Québec, Jake Lamotta-Granato, for his part assured Monday that the deaths that occurred in Akwesasne are currently “the subject of investigations by a coroner, in order to shed light on the causes and circumstances” surrounding the discovery of the bodies.
“At the end of his investigations, the coroner can also make recommendations aimed at protecting human life and avoiding deaths in similar circumstances,” said Mr. Lamotta-Granato at the same time.
Many questions remain unanswered in this case. Last weekend, for example, La Presse reported that Akwesasne resident Danielle Oakes heard cries of distress in the middle of the night from Wednesday to Thursday on the river in front of her home. Two days after the tragedy, she wonders in particular why her appeal to the authorities was not taken more seriously.
In recent days, experts and community organizers have also expressed concern that increased border control measures are creating “even more deaths” among migrants and vulnerable populations crossing the border.