One man is dead and five others are missing after their snowmobiles went through the ice along Quebec’s Lac Saint-Jean Tuesday night.
Emergency services were called to a channel at the edge of the lake, between the towns of Saint-Henri-de-Taillon and Alma, at 7:30 p.m. ET.
The snowmobilers were French tourists travelling with a guide, totalling nine people. They were driving across the snow-covered channel when the ice gave way beneath them.
One person who went through the ice was helped out of the water by two members of the group who had managed to brake and avoid falling in.
The three of them then drove to shore and called emergency services from a store in Saint-Henri-de-Taillon.
Firefighters from Alma recovered a fourth person, the 42-year-old guide, from the water. He was transported to hospital, but died Wednesday morning.
Sûreté du Québec Sgt. Hugues Beaulieu said the group deviated from the marked snowmobile paths — which are inspected daily — and went out onto the lake.
“They must not have known the area well, because it’s an area known for having critically thin ice because of the current,” Beaulieu said.
Members of the SQ’s snowmobile team, the Alma fire department and Canadian Armed Forces searched the area overnight.
The SQ’s diving team arrived on the scene Wednesday morning to assist in the search.
‘Incomprehensible,’ says mayor
“Of course, it’s concerning,” said Quebec’s municipal affairs minister, Andrée Laforest. “Were [the snowmobilers] lost? That will be part of the investigation.”
Laforest said that snowmobiling is a very popular activity in Quebec for residents and tourists alike, “but it’s important that it is done safely.”
Tuesday’s night accident on Lac Saint-Jean took place during International Snowmobile Safety Week.
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.
Saint-Henri-de-Taillon mayor André Paradis said he was shocked by the news. A snowmobiler himself, Paradis said he doesn’t know how the group wound up on the channel.
“No one understands why they would go there,” Paradis said. “It’s the worst place to go. It’s completely incomprehensible.”
Saint-Henri-de-Taillon is about 500 kilometres north of Montreal.