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Man dies crossing border between Quebec and Vermont

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Vermont State Police are investigating after a man collapsed and died shortly after crossing the border into the United States from Quebec on foot last week.

U.S. border patrol agents spotted Jose Leos Cervantes, 45, and two other people crossing the border into Holland, Vt., at about 10:30 p.m. on Feb. 19, Detective Trooper Jason Danielsen said in a news release.

"When Border Patrol agents responded and encountered the men, Leos Cervantes collapsed, while the other two men ran back toward Canada. Agents reported that they immediately provided first aid including CPR to Leos Cervantes," Danielsen said.

Leos Cervantes, originally from Aguascalientes, Mexico, was then taken to hospital, where he was later pronounced dead.

Police said his death is not considered suspicious and that an autopsy showed no signs of trauma.

In court documents, Border Patrol Agent Brian Wilda said Leos Cervantes "was clutching a tree and appeared to be in distress," at the time he was found.

A 31-year-old Ecuadorian woman who had been living in Connecticut was charged last week with unlawfully attempting to transport three individuals within the United States following Leos Cervantes' death.

Maria Constante-Zamora was scheduled to appear in a Vermont United States District Court earlier this week.

One of the people prosecutors believe was travelling with Leos Cervantes, Oscar Soto-Acosta, was later found by Border Patrol Agents. He is currently being held as a material witness in connection with the prosecution of Constante-Zamora.

This is the second time this winter a person has died crossing the border — Fritznel Richard, 44, was found frozen to death in early January in a wooded area near St-Bernard-de-Lacolle, Que., where police said he was trying to enter the United States.

Richardson Charles Alida, a friend of Richard's, said in late January that the Haitian asylum seeker had been unable to get a work permit in Canada and believed he would be able to get legal status in the U.S., as well as reunite with his wife in Florida.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection said earlier this month that agents in the sector bordering southern Quebec and southeastern Ontario encountered or apprehended 367 people attempting to cross the border illegally in January.

It said the number of encounters and apprehensions in January 2023 was higher than the previous 12 Januaries combined.  

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 28, 2023. 

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