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3 adults, child rescued in wilderness search

Effort prompted by 911 call to Canadian police

Four Mexican nationals, including one child, were rescued from a mountain near the Pasayten Wilderness in north-central Washington and hospitalized Monday after a search by local, state, U.S. and Canadian law enforcement officials. An investigation is trying to determine whether they are illegal immigrants.

Rescue units searched for the four by air, all-terrain vehicle, horseback and on foot after the Royal Canadian Mounted Police received a 911 call Sunday evening from someone who spoke only Spanish.

Danielle Suarez of the U.S. Border Patrol office in Spokane said the RCMP called Sunday requesting help with a Spanish interpreter, who determined the call was from a group that included three adults and one child, who were lost and had trouble describing their location.

“The only landmark they could describe was, they were on top of a mountain,” Suarez said.

According to information from the Okanogan County Sheriff’s log, the RCMP reported the four apparently had been dropped off near Keremeos, B.C., late last week, walked for two days and may have entered the U.S. near Nighthawk, a small border crossing west of Oroville.

Because of weather, an air search couldn’t be launched until Monday morning, she said. Okanogan County sheriff’s deputies joined with Border Patrol backcountry units, a Navy search and rescue unit and the RCMP for the search shortly after dawn and the group was located about 2:30 p.m. They were airlifted out by helicopter and hospitalized for dehydration and exposure to the cold.

The Border Patrol and U.S. immigration services are investigating whether the four are illegal aliens who were being smuggled into the country.

“This is definitely an area where we’ve seen smuggling activity,” Suarez said, although most of the smuggling agents have discovered has involved South Korean nationals.

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