The Quebec government is tightening safety measures for tourism operators as the search continues for five French tourists who went missing after their snowmobiles plunged in the waters of Lac St-Jean Tuesday night.
Tourism Minister Caroline Proulx announced the new rules on Thursday morning in Montreal, which include implementing mandatory training for tour guides and tourists to use off-road vehicles.
Under the plan, nature and adventure tourism companies must also hold a safety certification in order to be eligible for financial assistance from Quebec’s tourism ministry.
“It’s already been several weeks since we planned this announcement but we couldn’t imagine that this very positive announcement for the tourism industry in Quebec is being done in a context that’s as tragic as the one we are experiencing right now,” said Proulx.
The move comes as the Sûreté du Québec (SQ) and the Canadian Armed Forces remain in the area on Thursday following the discovery of two snowmobiles at the mouth of the Grande Décharge river.
As part of the search efforts, police officers are on snowmobiles to canvass the ground, and divers are in the water. Helicopters are also overhead in the area, located about 200 kilometres north of Quebec City.
“Every effort has been made to understand the circumstances surrounding this event,” the SQ said in a tweet.
Thursday evening, the SQ announced they had located four more snowmobiles discovered in the same area as the previous two. Police said one has yet to be located.
The search for missing snowmobilers, however, continues.
The SQ said eight tourists from France and their guide were on snowmobiles between Saint-Henri-de-Taillon and Alma on Tuesday night when the ice gave way.
Benoît L’Espérance, a 42-year-old Quebecer leading the group, died several hours after he was taken to hospital.
Three other members made it to shore and were treated for hypothermia, according to police.
Five of the French tourists remain missing as of Thursday morning.
The SQ have identified the five missing tourists as:
- Gilles Claude, 58
- Yan Thierry, 24
- Jean-René Dumoulin, 24
- Julien Benoît, 34
- Arnaud Antoine, 25
Proulx said she couldn’t comment on the events surrounding the case since an investigation is underway, but that her thoughts are with the snowmobilers and their families.
— With files from Global News’ Annabelle Olivier and the Canadian Press