Police identify two of the eight migrants after they lifted the bodies from the water near Akwesasne

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QUEBEC — Akwesasne Mohawk police have identified two of the eight migrants whose bodies were pulled from the St. Lawrence River earlier this week, but said Saturday they were still searching for a local resident whose boat was found near the victims.

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An evening Facebook update from the force said one of the adult men, identified as 28-year-old Florin Iordache, was carrying Canadian passports for a one-year-old and a two-year-old, both previously recovered. .

They also identified one of the adult females as Cristina (Monalisa) Zenaida Iordache, also 28 years old.

The identities of four Indian nationals have yet to be confirmed and their families have yet to be notified, the update continued.

In a separate Facebook post Saturday, police said they were still searching for 30-year-old Akwesasne resident Casey Oakes, who was last seen Wednesday night operating a boat that was found next to the bodies of migrants on Thursday, but they hadn’t. made no direct connection between Oakes and the deaths. Some clothing belonging to Oakes was also found, police added.

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The update also noted that police had found a man inside a cabin on St. Regis Island, but could not yet say if he was related to the ongoing investigation.

“Searching continues in local waterways. Police estimate there are eight kilometers of waterway to search,” the police wrote.

Akwesasne straddles the Canada-United States border with parts of the territory in Ontario, Quebec, and New York state. Streets in and surrounding areas of the community were quiet Saturday, with little visible sign of the ongoing search.

Val Gray, owner of the Three Feathers internet cafe, said the community was saddened by the unfolding tragedy.

“People are saddened by the event and just hope they can get everyone back who was involved in the accident,” Gray said.

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The bodies of five adults and one child were found in a swampy area on Thursday and the bodies of a second child and an adult woman were recovered on Friday.

About 40 first responders were involved in the search, police said, including officers from Akwesasne, RCMP, Ontario Provincial Police, Sûreté du Québec Provincial Police and New York’s Hogansburg Akwesasne Volunteer Fire Department.

Gray said he did not know Oakes, that he knew his father, a community member and one of his coffee shop patrons.

She said her business was contracted by the Mohawk council to make sure all the volunteer prospectors were fed. Gray said the cafe had provided breakfast sandwiches for the past two days, as well as dinner on Friday.

“The community is coming together and everyone is supporting each other in one way or another, whether it’s volunteering at the main (search) site or other companies donating … to searchers,” Gray said. “That’s what this community is all about. No matter what, everyone is always there to help.”

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Some of the volunteers could be seen gathering at the Akwesasne Volunteer Fire Department in Hogansburg, New York, on Saturday as police blocked access to the marina, where they had set up a command post. When approached, officials and searchers declined to comment on whether any progress had been made.

The search continued until sunset Saturday and was expected to resume Sunday morning.

Authorities have said the territory’s unique geography makes it a popular location for human smugglers, with police making 48 separate interceptions involving 80 people trying to enter the United States illegally since January. Most of them have been of Indian or Romanian descent.

In February, Akwesasne police reported an increase in people smuggling into Mohawk territory.

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In April 2022, six Indian nationals were rescued from a sinking boat in the St. Regis River, which runs through the territory. A seventh person, seen leaving the ship and wading toward shore, was later identified as a US citizen. US Customs and Border Protection officials described what happened as a human smuggling incident.

Oakes was charged last year with two criminal charges: dangerous operation of a conveyance and assault with a weapon. He is scheduled to return to court in Valleyfield, Quebec, at the end of May in connection with that case, which was investigated by police in Akwesasne.

With files from Keith Doucette in Halifax and Rob Drinkwater in Edmonton.


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