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Quebec provincial police find body of French snowmobiler as search continues for 4 others

One person is dead and five tourists from France are missing after a group of snowmobilers plunged through the ice Tuesday night near Quebec's Lac Saint-Jean.
One person is dead and five tourists from France are missing after a group of snowmobilers plunged through the ice Tuesday night near Quebec's Lac Saint-Jean. Rocket Lavoie/Le Quotidien/The Canadian Press

Quebec provincial police have located the body of a missing snowmobiler on Friday afternoon as they continue searching for the other four French tourists who disappeared earlier this week.

The Sûreté du Québec (SQ) confirmed the body was pulled out of the water of the Grande Décharge river, about two kilometres from where the group’s snowmobiles plunged through the ice. Investigators have not revealed the identity of the victim.

For the third day in a row, police officers are canvassing the ground, air and waters in hopes of finding the snowmobilers who disappeared nearly 200 kilometres north of Quebec City.

“No effort has been spared,” the police force said in a statement. “Finding them is our priority.”

READ MORE: Quebec unveils safety measures for adventure tourism as search continues for missing French snowmobilers

Eight tourists from France and their guide were on snowmobiles between Saint-Henri-de-Taillon and Alma on Tuesday night when they fell through the ice.

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Three of the tourists and their guide made it out of the icy waters. Benoît L’Espérance, a 42-year-old Quebecer leading the group, died several hours after he was taken to hospital.

Police identified the five missing French snowmobilers as Gilles Claude, 58, Yan Thierry, 24, Jean-René Dumoulin, 24, Julien Benoît, 34, and Arnaud Antoine, 25.

The mayor of Sainte-Marie-aux-Mines, located in northeastern France near the German border, said he knew two of the five missing snowmobilers. Claude Abel said the whole region was upset.

“All we can do in this situation of waiting and worry is to bring a little support to the family and loved ones,” he said in a phone interview.

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

The Canadian Armed Forces and firefighters have been helping provincial police canvass the area since the snowmobilers went missing.

As of Thursday evening, six of the snowmobiles had been pulled from the water. Police say they have not located the last snowmobile.

In wake of the incident, the Quebec government unveiled stricter rules for adventure tourism in the province. This includes implementing mandatory training for tour guides and tourists to use off-road vehicles.

Nature and adventure tourism companies must also hold a safety certification in order to be eligible for financial assistance from Quebec’s tourism ministry.

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— With files from the Canadian Press