Two men paid a Canadian fisherman to take them out on his charter fishing boat on the Niagara River and then forced him at knifepoint to bring them to the U.S. shoreline in New York, according to authorities who were searching for the men Wednesday.
The pair, described as in their mid-20s, were among three men who approached a father and son for a fishing excursion at a marina in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, about 11 a.m. Tuesday, U.S. Border Patrol spokesman Matthew Bitterman said.
Although the 17-year-old son noticed the group did not appear to be dressed for cold-weather fishing, he agreed to the outing, authorities said. Only two men made the trip after the third walked away.
While on the river, the men asked if they could get closer to the United States shoreline to take some pictures, Bitterman said, and the son traveled to the mouth of Lake Ontario near Fort Niagara State Park.
"He got as close as he felt comfortable to the shoreline and they pushed him to get closer," Bitterman said. "One of them displayed a knife and said something to the effect of 'I think we can get closer.'"
The son dropped the men off in the backyard of a home in the Niagara County village of Youngstown, New York. They were last seen walking along residential Lake Road.
While people are periodically arrested for paying smugglers or crossing the river in canoes and kayaks stolen from the Canadian shore, authorities could not recall a previous hijacking incident.
"We've had smuggling of alcohol, smuggling of cigarettes and drugs. We've run into all of that, but I can't recall a forcible" crossing, Niagara County Sheriff Chief Deputy Steven Preisch said.
One of the men carried a brown satchel and spoke French as he talked on a cellphone, the son told authorities. The other, wearing a black sweater, spoke with what was described as a New Jersey accent.
The Border Patrol's Buffalo sector, which covers 450 miles from western to central New York, made 741 arrests in the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, Bitterman said. Of them, 37 people had illegally entered from Canada.