Quebec police find bodies of two of four missing French snowmobilers

ST-HENRI-DE-TAILLON, Que. — A Quebec provincial police search-and-rescue team retrieved the bodies of two more French snowmobilers who plunged into the water last Tuesday in the province’s Lac-Saint-Jean region.

Sgt. Hugues Beaulieu said the bodies were found late Sunday morning at a site more than three kilometres from where the initial search began.

Their names were not released.

The grim discovery raises the official death toll to four, while two snowmobilers remained missing as of Sunday afternoon.

A group of eight tourists from eastern France and their guide were travelling off-trail late last Tuesday when the ice gave way somewhere between St-Henri-de-Taillon and Alma. The 42-year-old guide was found in the hours following the accident and declared dead in hospital soon after.

While five men were originally missing, divers found the body of 58-year-old Gilles Claude on Friday, about two kilometres from where the first snowmobiles were located.

Beaulieu said dozens of police were involved in the search for the remaining men, which has involved drones, helicopters, boats, snowmobiles and three teams of divers. On Sunday, he indicated police had no intention of abandoning the search.

Earlier Sunday, police announced they had located the seventh and final submerged snowmobile that remained unaccounted for.

For reasons that remain unclear, the group left the safety of the marked trail through the woods and ventured towards the icy expanse of Lac-Saint-Jean, where the ice gave way sometime before 7:30 p.m. Tuesday.

Two of the travelling party managed to save a third tourist who’d fallen into the water, and they made it to shore and alerted authorities.

Experienced local snowmobilers have described the area as extremely dangerous due to swift currents and thin ice, and warned against leaving the marked trails.

The five missing French snowmobilers were identified by police as Claude, Yan Thierry and Jean-Rene Dumoulin, both 24, Julien Benoit, 34, and Arnaud Antoine, 25.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan 26, 2020

The Canadian Press

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