Quebec town devastated by fishing accident that killed local man, 4 children

Click to play video: 'Bodies of 4 children, 1 adult found after 11 people swept away by river in Quebec'
Bodies of 4 children, 1 adult found after 11 people swept away by river in Quebec
Quebec police say divers have found the body of a fifth missing person, a man in his 30s, after a tragic fishing excursion in the province’s northeast. The discovery came after four children were found dead on the shore of Saint Lawrence River Saturday, among a group of 11 people who were swept away by a rising tide. Six others were rescued from the water – Jun 4, 2023

Residents of a small northeastern Quebec village are devastated by the news that a local man and two of his children were among five people killed in a weekend fishing mishap, one of the man’s relatives said Sunday.

Keven Girard, 37, and four children died early on Saturday when they were caught in the shifting tides of the St. Lawrence River while fishing for capelin.

Police identified Girard on Sunday but declined to name the children. But Girard’s aunt by marriage, Vivian Lavoie, said his sons Patrick and Jerome Girard were among the victims.

“Everyone is gutted,” Lavoie said in French on Sunday from the village of Les Bergeronnes, which was also Girard’s hometown.

“Everyone knows each other here. It’s tight here. Everyone is affected, because we know them all.”

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Click to play video: 'Quebec wildfires prompt over 10,000 people to evacuate'
Quebec wildfires prompt over 10,000 people to evacuate

Divers found Girard’s body in the St. Lawrence river on Saturday night, provincial police spokeswoman Sgt. Beatrice Dorsainville said in a phone interview.

His death was first announced after the bodies of four children were found unresponsive on the river bank on Saturday.

The kids were found a few hours after a 2 a.m. emergency call that day about a group swept up by the tide near Portneuf-sur-Mer, a North Coast village located about 550 kilometres northeast of Montreal.

Police said the five were among a group of 11 people fishing on foot near the shore when they were caught off guard by the rising waters.

Following police announcements, a wave of social media posts expressed grief, sympathy and heartfelt affection for the victims and their loved ones.

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Samuel Brassard, Girard’s cousin, left a post on his relative’s Facebook page late Saturday night with the image of a burning candle underneath.

“You were like a brother to me,” he wrote in French, and recalled their last get-together the week before, shortly after the burial of their grandmother.

“We had started saying our goodbyes to our loved ones and wondering who will be next. Had I known that a few days after it was you and your little men that I had to say goodbye, I would have made sure the party never ended. You left too soon, I’ll never forget you, I love you!”

Officials from Portneuf-sur-Mer, a community of about 600 people that sits 60 kilometres northeast of Girard’s hometown, also shared condolences on the town’s Facebook page.

“The municipality of Portneuf-sur-Mer and all the citizens unite in the same spirit to wish the bereaved families and their friends good luck! Our deepest condolences and thoughts are with you,” the post read.

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Forest fires in Northern Quebec prompt evacuations

Quebec provincial police divers and Canadian Forces members took part in the search for Girard throughout Saturday afternoon.

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“Everyone is affected by what happened, because this kind of event, it’s the first time it’s happened,” Mayor Jean-Maurice Tremblay said in French. “When it involves five people, and four children drowning during a recreational activity, it’s certain people are quite sad about it.”

Capelin — a silvery smelt fish — are a forage species consumed by many marine animals, and Tremblay said fishing for them is a popular activity in his part of Quebec’s North Shore. Capelin fishing takes place on the banks of the river using scoops rather than fishing lines.

The fish most often roll at night, so people light a fire on the shore and wait, Tremblay added.

He said the sandbank on which the victims were fishing is accessed by all-terrain vehicles. They were caught on a section of the peninsula where parts can be submerged by up to four metres of water when the tide rises.

Tremblay said it’s important to watch for fluctuating tides, something that’s difficult to identify at night.

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