One person was recovered dead and five French tourists are reportedly missing as the Quebec provincial police search-and-rescue teams examined the frozen waters of the Lac-Saint-Jean region on Wednesday after a group of snowmobilers that went off-trail submerged through the ice in an accident.
Police said that the victim found, a 42-year-old Quebec man, Benoit L'Esperance of Montreal, who served as a guide to the eight tourists from France, succumbed to his injuries and died on the way to the hospital, as per the reports.
Provincial police spokesman Sgt. Hugues Beaulieu told the media that the eight snowmobilers from France and their guide were travelling on the shallow lake across St-Henri-de-Taillon and Alma when the ice gave way and they plunged into the water. However, two of the snowmobilers took control of their vehicle prior to collapsing into the ice sheath and managed to rescue one other group member. They are being treated for hypothermia.
Canadian military helicopters and teams of divers were reportedly deployed on a search-and-rescue mission about 200 kilometres north of Quebec City that was initially inspected by the provincial police on snowmobiles, local firefighters and Canadian Armed Forces personnel.
According to the reports, search efforts at the accident site took turn for worse as one of the two provincial police helicopters deployed on the mission crashed near the scene. Beatrice Dorsainville, the provincial police sergeant told the media sources that the pilot, who was conscious at the time, was immediately reached by the search-and-rescue team already on site. She said that he was the only occupant in the helicopter and was rushed to the hospital with injuries that weren’t extremely serious.
Dorsainville said that the police were thoroughly inspecting the shorelines adding that it wasn’t uncertain that a few snowmobilers could have made it to safety and were waiting to be found.
Laurent Barbot, the Deputy Consul for France in Quebec reportedly said that French authorities have been contacting the families of the missing men who came from the east of the country. He said the three who survived were doing "physically well," but were shocked by the tragedy. Andree Laforest, the minister responsible for the Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean region said in a news conference said that Quebec government is in contact with authorities in France and the provincial police emergency services were assisting in the investigation and working to locate the missing tourists.