Five French tourists are missing and one Canadian tour guide died in an incident on Tuesday evening where their snowmobiles plunged into freezing water in northern Quebec. Canadian police say the group of eight French tourists were not on the snowmobile trail when the incident happened and three of them were able to drive to safety and call for help. Investigators, divers, snowmobilers and the Quebec provincial police helicopter service are working together with the various partners involved in order to find the missing tourists. Police are conducting searches in the Beemer Island area to try and locate the missing snowmobilers.
According to media reports, a 42-year-old Canadian tour guide, Benoit L'Esperance of Montreal, was rescued from the water but was declared dead by doctors upon his arrival at the hospital. Quebec police and Canadian Armed Forces carried out search operations overnight for the five missing tourists. On Wednesday morning, eight divers from the Quebec provincial police and two helicopters arrived at the scene to help but the search operation was halted for sometime when one of the helicopters crashed and the pilot was injured, local media reported.
Les enquêteurs, les plongeurs, les motoneigistes et le service héliporté de la Sûreté du Québec travaillent de concert avec les différents partenaires impliqués dans le but de retrouver les motoneigistes. pic.twitter.com/Qx0AMEKoue— Sûreté du Québec (@sureteduquebec) January 22, 2020
According to Quebec provincial police, the group was riding near Saint-Jean lake where Saguenay River exits. Ice is usually thick on the lake but it is thinner where the water funnels into the river and that is where the accident took place. The tourists hired snowmobiles in the village of Saint-Michel-des-Saints, Canadian media reported. France's deputy consul general in Quebec, Laurent Barbot also visited the site where the rescue operations were taking place.
Powerful snowmobiles are very popular in Quebec among the locals and tourists but they often cause numerous accidents in the area. Last year two French tourists, a mother, and her son died in a snowmobile accident in Quebec Nature Park. According to media reports, an average of 20 people dies of snowmobile accidents each year.