Three days after the disappearance in Canada of five French tourists, fallen into the icy waters of a lake, during a snowmobile expedition, a first body was found on Friday.
Significant research continued on Friday. The investigators said they were determined to "give up" and continue the research for several days. As of the previous day, around thirty police officers, including a dozen divers, scoured the area where the tragedy occurred all day long, supported by helicopters, drones or boats equipped with sonars.
The group included eight tourists from eastern France. Tuesday evening, for a reason still unknown, they branched off the marked path to venture into an "off-piste" area deemed to be dangerous. Experts believe they wanted to take a shortcut to their final destination. However, this sector, at the mouth of a river, freezes less or not at all because of the currents.
Refugee survivors in a grocery store
According to the latest cross-checks from local media, their guide, a 42-year-old Montrealer, had backtracked to come and help three of the tourists who were behind: one of them fell into the water before being recovered by the two others. The three survivors took refuge in a grocery store whose owner, Charles Tremblay, gave the alert.
The guide then left to catch up with the leading group of five snowmobilers, before falling into the water where he was picked up by the firefighters. He died Wednesday of his injuries. "If he hadn't returned, he would have made it with the other three. But a guide will not let his world go ”, testifies for the Journal of Quebec the owner of the grocery store.
Six snowmobiles were recovered from the bottom of the lake. Police released the identities of the five missing, originally from eastern France, as the three survivors on Thursday. They are Gilles Claude, 58, Yan Thierry, 24, Jean-René Dumoulin, 24, Julien Benoît, 34, and Arnaud Antoine, 25.
"Passionate about speed, but careful"
Father of three international biathletes, Emilien, Florent and Fabien, Gilles Claude is a regular on snowmobile tours in Quebec. A longtime friend, Joël Poirot, is surprised that he was able to take risks. "In Canada, he declares, he had already been there I don't know how many times, he knew very well, he could even have gone there without a guide, that's why I don't understand what that happened ".
"He was passionate about speed but he remained cautious, he did not make mistakes, did not take uncontrolled risks", adds Joël Poirot. "I lost a friend who did everything according to the rules but who didn't have a luck, if I can summarize like that ..."
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"We are waiting, we are trying to believe it," said Damien Antoine, president of the Vosges motorcycle club La Bressaude, where two of the missing are dismissed, Gilles Claude and Jean-René Dumoulin. He describes "people who are very experienced, very good pilots and careful at the same time", "very diligent" both on motorbikes in summer and in snowmobiles in winter, and who had already made numerous trips by snowmobile.
The three survivors, slightly injured and "morally shocked", left Montreal Thursday evening and were expected at their home Friday, according to the Consulate General of France in Quebec.