A Montreal firefighter has died after falling into the waters of the St. Lawrence River during a rescue mission Sunday night.
Pierre Lacroix was part of the team responding to a call for boaters in distress in the Lachine rapids when the fire department’s own vessel capsized.
The fire department confirmed Lacroix’s body was recovered with the boat Monday after an extensive operation that included Montreal police’s nautical unit as well as firefighters from other cities. Quebec provincial police and the Canadian Armed Forces also took part in the search.
“His death was confirmed at the hospital,” said Montreal fire chief Richard Liebmann.
Quebec provincial police said a vessel carrying four Montreal firefighters was dispatched at about 7:10 p.m. Sunday to rescue two occupants of a boat that was in trouble in the area of the Lachine rapids in the southwestern part of the city.
“During the rescue attempt, because of the danger of the water and the rapids at night, the boat did capsize,” Liebmann said. “All four firefighters and two citizens ended up in the water.”
Three of the firefighters who were on the boat were rescued and taken to hospital, as were the two boaters who had initially been rescued, but Lacroix could not immediately be found.
Liebmann explained that the missing firefighter was first spotted under the boat early Monday morning, around 3 a.m. with the help of a camera. He told reporters the circumstances surrounding how the vessel capsized remain under investigation but noted the area is a dangerous one.
“He was an experienced water rescue firefighter but this is, by nature, a very dangerous place to be — especially at night,” Liebmann said.
Lacroix, who worked at Station 64 in Lachine, “made the ultimate sacrifice coming to the assistance of two people,” he added. The firefighter who gave more than 30 years of his life to the profession leaves behind his wife and two children.
Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante offered her sympathies to the family and those who worked with Lacroix. The city’s flags will fly at half mast in his honour, she said.
“He truly believed it was the right thing to do, which was saving other peoples’ lives, even if it meant losing his own,” she said.
Condolences have also started pouring in for Lacroix from across the province.
“Our thoughts are with the family, friends and colleagues of the fallen firefighter on duty,” Montreal police wrote on social media.
Quebec Public Security Minister Geneviève Guilbault gave her condolences to Lacroix’s family and said her thoughts were also with the department.
“I salute the courage and efforts of the Montreal firefighters,” she wrote. “And all those who were involved in the search.”
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—with files from Global News’ Brayden Jagger Haines, Gloria Henriquez and The Canadian Press