The Akwesasne Mohawk Police Service (AMPS) is continuing its investigation into the whereabouts of missing Akwesasne resident, Casey Oakes, despite having suspended the more focused search efforts done in collaboration with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, Canadian Coast Guard, Ontario Provincial Police, Sûreté du Québec, and the Hogansburg Akwesasne Volunteer Fire Department.
In a statement released by the AMPS, the police service noted they have exhausted their search efforts on the water. “There will continue to be efforts made as part of daily operations to find [Oakes], and we ask the community to continue being on the lookout for any sign of him.”
Oakes was first reported missing on March 30, and was last seen boarding a boat around 9 p.m. on March 29. A land search of the shoreline and an eight-kilometre search of the Snye Channel and local waterways was conducted between March 30 and April 5.
During the search efforts, the bodies of six deceased victims were discovered on March 30 in a marsh area, and two more victims were pulled from the water on the following day. The AMPS is now confirming investigators believe Oakes, whose overturned boat was found near the victims, is connected to the eight deceased individuals who were attempting to cross illegally into the United States from Canada. In a statement the AMPS said, “An essential part of this investigation is determining whether or not this travel was facilitated by an individual or individuals.”
The investigation into the eight deceased victims is still in its early stages. The eight individuals have been identified as members of two families, one of Romanian descent and the other being citizens of India. One of the adult males has been identified as 28-year-old Florin Lordache, who was carrying Canadian passports belonging to Evelin, his two-year-old daughter and Elyen, his one-year-old son. An adult female has also been identified as 28-year-old Cristina (Monalisa) Zenaida Lordache. It is believed the family was attempting to flee an imminent deportation order from Canada.
The Lordache family perished alongside a family of four from the western Indian state of Gujarat, including 49-year-old Pravinbhai Veljibhai Chaudhari and his wife, 45-year-old Dakshaben Pravinbhai Chaudhari, their 20-year-old son Mitkumar Pravinbhai Chaudhari, and 23-year-old daughter Vidhiben Pravinkumar Chaudhari.
According to a report by the Canadian Press, the family had been in Canada on a tourist visa. Indian officials are continuing to work with their Canadian counterparts to obtain more information on the family’s travel in Canada, and the circumstances surrounding their tragic attempt to cross into the United States
The AMPS is working with Homeland Security Investigations in Massena and other local law enforcement agencies to piece together what transpired. In the meantime, the police service is asking for the public’s assistance in locating Oakes, who is described as an “Indigenous male, approximately 5’11.5” tall and approximately 190 lbs. He has a slim build, brown hair, brown eyes, and possibly unshaven facial hair.”
Anyone with information that could help the investigation can anonymously contact the Seaway Valley Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477). (SR)