Still no sign of missing snowmobilers as search's fourth day ends
LAC-SAINT-JEAN -- Quebec provincial police suspended their search Saturday evening for four missing tourists after a snowmobile accident in the province's Lac-Saint-Jean region earlier this week.
Authorities ended their search at nightfall and will decide early Sunday whether to resume searching a fifth day for the men from eastern France who haven't been seen since Tuesday night.
They were initially looking for five missing men, but on Friday police divers pulled the body of Gilles Claude, 58, from the frigid waters about two kilometres from where four submerged snowmobiles were located.
His identity was confirmed by the province's coroner just after land, nautical and aerial searches began early Saturday.
Sgt. Hugues Beaulieu of the provincial police said they remain focused on finding the missing men, and several boats criss-crossed an expanded, 10-kilometre area as part of the search.
A total of nine people -- a guide from Montreal and eight men from France -- were on the snowmobile trip.
The group left the safety of the marked trail through the woods for reasons that remain unclear. They ventured towards the icy expanse of Lac-Saint-Jean, where the ice gave way somewhere between St-Henri-de-Taillon and Alma on Tuesday night.
The guide, Benoit L'Esperance, 42, of Montreal, was pulled from the water by rescuers and died in hospital early Wednesday.
Two of the travelling party managed to save another tourist who'd fallen into the water, and they made it to shore and alerted authorities.
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.
Police have employed divers equipped with sonar technology as well as drones, a helicopter and officers on boats. Other officers have been searching the shoreline.
"We're making use of the technology available to us, but the area is vast and large," Beaulieu said of the area, about 200 kilometres north of Quebec City.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 25, 2020.