1 dead, 5 missing as snowmobiles fall through ice in Canada

Snowmobiling is a popular tourist activity in Canada. (Pixabay pic)

MONTREAL: A Canadian guide died and five French tourists were missing after their snowmobiles plunged through ice into freezing water in northern Quebec, police said Wednesday.

The group were riding near where a river exits the Saint-Jean lake, and were outside the approved area for snowmobiles, police spokesman Hugues Beaulieu told AFP.

Nine people, including the excursion guide, were on the trip when the ice broke underneath them in the dark on Tuesday evening.

Police said they were alerted by two of the tourists who had rescued a third tourist from the water.

The 42-year-old guide was pulled out by emergency response teams and taken to hospital, but he died overnight, Beaulieu said, adding “five French tourists are still missing”.

Officials said that details of the accident remained unclear.

Survivors were hospitalised in the nearby town of Alma and treated for minor injuries and hypothermia.

Ice on the lake is often very thick, but it is thinner where the lake funnels into the Saguenay River.

The tourists had hired snowmobiles in the village of Saint-Michel-des-Saints, nearly 300km away by trails, according to Canadian media.

Powerful snowmobiles on skis, which can reach the speed of 140kph, are popular with Quebecers and foreign tourists, but cause numerous accidents each year.

Divers and two helicopters searched the area on Wednesday, alongside the police and army.

“This sector was not part of a marked trail, they were off-piste,” said the police spokesman.