Death toll in failed St. Lawrence River migrant crossing rises to 8

April 1 (UPI) -- The death toll in a failed attempt by migrants to cross the St. Lawrence River from Quebec, Canada into the United States has risen to eight, tribal police officials confirmed.

One person, described as a person of interest by law enforcement, is still missing in the wake of this week's incident near the Kanien'keha:ka First Nations town of Akwesasne, Police Chief Shawn Dulude told reporters in an update Friday.


The bodies of six victims were found and an overturned boat were recovered on Thursday. An additional two bodies were recovered a day later after being found on the banks of the river.

Kanien'keha:ka (known to outsiders as the Mohawk) officials said six of the dead were adults, one was a 3-year-old child with Canadian nationality and one was an infant who also held Canadian nationally.

Authorities believe the dead were members of Romanian and Indian families trying to reach the United States.

Akwesasne resident Casey Oakes was reported missing after being seen departing in a small blue vessel on Wednesday. The search for Oakes is what lead authorities to discover the bodies.

Akwesasne Deputy Police Chief Lee-Ann O'Brien said Oakes' vessel was discovered near the bodies and, according to police, he is a person of interest in the ongoing investigation.


Dulude said criminal gangs have been involved in smuggling migrants and that his department has interdicted 48 attempted crossings involving 80 people this year so far. The majority of the individuals were also Indian and Romanian, he said.

"There are certain people in our community who will be vulnerable. Usually we're looking at the younger people looking to make money," the chief said.

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