A tour guide is dead and five others are still missing after their group’s snowmobiles fell through the ice along Quebec’s Lac Saint-Jean Tuesday night, reports CBC.
Quebec provincial police launched a search Wednesday but had to call off the search as nighttime fell. Two of the snowmobiles were located, but not yet recovered. Divers will begin their search again at first light today.
In what almost became an even bigger tragedy, a provincial police pilot involved in the search was injured when his helicopter crashed into the water. His injuries were not life-threatening and no one else was aboard.
The deceased snowmobiler has been identified as Benoît Lespérance, 42 from Montreal, who was guiding the group of eight French tourists. He died several hours after being admitted to the hospital.
It appears the group was driving across a snow-covered channel, between the towns of Saint-Henri-de-Taillon and Alma, when the ice gave way beneath them. Two members of the party managed to brake and avoid the water, and also managed to pull another member out of the water. The three then drove to shore and raised the alarm.
“Physically, they are doing well. But morally, they are shocked,” said Laurent Barbot, a French consular official, about the three survivors.
Sûreté du Québec Sgt. Hugues Beaulieu said the group, lead by the experienced and qualified guide, deviated from the marked snowmobile paths and went out onto the lake, known for having critically thin ice because of the current.
Five people have died in snowmobile-related incidents in the province since the 2019-2020 winter season began, not including the accident on Lac Saint-Jean. In total, 104 people in Quebec have died while snowmobiling since 2015, reports CBC.