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Pilot injured in SQ helicopter crash during search for missing French snowmobilers

Quebec snowmobiling accident leaves 1 dead, 5 missing
WATCH: A Montreal tour guide is dead and five tourists are missing after a snowmobile trip turned tragic in Quebec. Mike Armstrong explains what went so wrong.

A Sûreté du Québec (SQ) helicopter crashed while searching for five French tourists who went missing during a snowmobile expedition on Tuesday night.

The helicopter crashed Wednesday afternoon in the Île Beemer area of Lac St-Jean, where the SQ is conducting its searches.

The SQ said the pilot, who was alone on board, crashed in the water. The pilot suffered non-life-threatening injuries and was taken to hospital for treatment.

The cause of the crash is not yet known, but the SQ said the incident will not interfere with its search operation.

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Wednesday evening, police said they had located two snowmobiles in the mouth of the Grande Décharge river.

SQ spokesperson  Béatrice Dorsinville said the vehicles were submerged in the water and would only be pulled out on Thursday.

Dorsainville said none of the missing tourists have yet been found.

She said ground searches would continue throughout the night, but that divers and helicopters can’t operate at night for safety reasons and would only rejoin search efforts on Thursday.

The Quebec government said earlier Wednesday it is closely monitoring the search operation.

Minister of Municipal Affairs Andrée Laforest said the province is in contact with France as Quebec provincial police on snowmobiles, local firefighters and Canadian Armed Forces personnel continue their search efforts.

“They are still mobilized on the ground to find the snowmobilers,” she said.

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The Sûreté du Québec (SQ) said the eight French snowmobilers and their guide were in the St-Henri-de-Taillon area, located about 200 kilometres north of Quebec City, when they plunged through the ice.

The 42-year-old Quebec man who was the guide of the group died several hours after he was taken to hospital, according to police. The SQ is helping the Quebec coroner’s office in their investigation.

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Three members of the group made it to shore and were treated for hypothermia, according to police.

Provincial police spokesman Sgt. Hugues Beaulieu said the incident took place in an area off the usual snowmobile trails. He said police do not recommend snowmobilers go off-trail.

The Quebec government is still awaiting more information but Laforest said she wants to remind the public to stay on marked trails if they head out on snowmobiles.

“You must practice this activity in a very, very safe manner,” she said.

— With files from the Canadian Press

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