Akwesasne officials named 2 Romanian family members Saturday among 8 victims
Police sources in India have provided the names of three family members who were among eight people who died after trying to cross the St. Lawrence River Thursday into the United States near Akwesasne — a community that straddles Quebec, Ontario and New York state.
A source identified one woman as Vidhiben Pravinkumar Chaudhari, 24, and two men as Pravinbhai Veljibhai Chaudhari, 50, and Mitkumar Pravinbhai Chaudhari, 20. The next of kin in India have been notified, the source said.
Sources told CBC News that the three family members are from Gujarat — the same state in India as the family who died trying to cross the Canada-U.S. border in Manitoba in 2022.
The Akwesasne Mohawk Police Service have said four Indian nationals who were recovered from the river are believed to be a family. The identity of the fourth Indian national is unconfirmed at this time.
Eight people were found in a marsh on the riverbank.
On Saturday, police identified two people of Romanian descent who were recovered from the river as 28-year-old Florin Iordache and 28-year-old Cristina (Monalisa) Zenaida Iordache.
Police said Florin 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 also recovered.
Romanian man set to be deported
CBC News has learned that Florin Iordache had his asylum application to Canada refused and was set to be deported.
Public federal documents show that he had applied for a pre-removal risk assessment (PRRA) — one of the safeguards in place to ensure people in need of protection are not removed — which had also been denied.
Documents show he was seeking a judicial review of the refusal for his PRRA.
“The pre-removal risk assessment is basically the last chance to persuade an immigration officer that the person has a continuing risk if returned to their country,” said immigration lawyer Max Berger in an interview with CBC News.
Berger said a person’s removal is put on hold until there’s a decision in the PRRA. Once the PRRA is refused, then the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) is able to remove or deport them.
“In this case, it’s possible that CBSA was starting to make removal arrangements for this family or perhaps, they themselves saw the writing on the wall and thought they had better options in America,” he said.
Family members told CBC News Saturday they hadn’t heard from the family of four in a week and that they knew they were planning to come to the U.S. to join family in Orlando, Fla.
They said a close relative, who hasn’t seen the family in about six years, was supposed to pick them up in New York.
CBC News has spoken with a relative in Orlando who said Florin and his family had been in Canada for about a year and a half and were living in Toronto. They described Florin and his wife as a very happy and close family who loved their children.
The relative said the extended family was looking forward to being reunited and holding the children in their arms. They now want to find a way to repatriate their bodies to Romania.
Father Emanuel Țencaliuc, a priest at the All Saints Romanian Orthodox Church in Toronto, said he met the Iordache family last summer when they worshipped at the church and he baptized the two children.
“They were a young family, quiet, with young children, sometimes speaking with the members of our community but not getting too close,” he said. “We could see they were faithful.”
Țencaliuc said the church held a memorial service Sunday to pray for the Iordache family and their surviving family members.
“It’s with great sadness to learn what happened,” Țencaliuc said. “The whole community was saddened today … in tears.”
On Sunday, Akwesasne police continued their search for a local man whose boat was found close to where the bodies were recovered from the water.
The service issued a statement saying a search would continue until sunset for 30-year-old Akwesasne resident Casey Oakes, whom officers have been seeking since Thursday.
Oakes was last seen Wednesday night boarding a small, light-blue vessel leaving Cornwall Island.
Akwesasne officials have not made any direct connection between Oakes and the deaths.
‘Tragic, emotional toll’
Luke Lezore, a local former firefighter, says the tragedy has left people in the Kanien’kehá:ka community reeling, including himself, as he’s been forced to recall haunting memories about his time working with the fire department.
“We did a lot of searching like that and there was a lot of bodies we recovered from the river,” he said. “It was a pretty tragic, emotional toll on you.”
An intensive search continues in the First Nations community of Akwesasne, after eight bodies were pulled from the St. Lawrence River. As the community braces for word on the final missing person, more details emerge about the identities of the dead, and what may have brought them to the water’s edge.
Authorities have said the territory’s unique geography makes it a popular spot for human smugglers, with police making 48 separate interceptions this year. Most of those who try to enter the U.S. through the area are of Indian and Romanian descent.
Lezore — who referred to human smuggling in the area as a “judicial nightmare” — says despite years of seeing the same types of deaths occur on the river, he doesn’t believe anything will change.
“I think it’s going to go on the way it is,” he said. “People are still going to be coming across trying to get that money to bring people across.”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Sabrina Jonas is a digital reporter with CBC Montreal. She was previously based at CBC Toronto after graduating from Toronto Metropolitan University’s School of Journalism. Sabrina has a particular interest in social justice issues and human interest stories. Drop her an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
with files from CBC’s Katie Nicholson, Sarah Leavitt, Steven D’Souza, Karen Pauls and Ryan Jones
Credit belongs to : www.cbc.ca