Police find body of missing firefighter near Baie-Saint-Paul, Que., 1 still missing

The body of Régis Lavoie, one of two firefighters swept away by floodwaters in Saint-Urbain, Que., has been found, his family confirmed to Radio-Canada.

Police told family that Régis Lavoie's body has been found, according to Radio-Canada

A helicopter is flying.

The body of one of two firefighters swept away by floodwaters in Saint-Urbain, Que., on Monday, has been found.

Régis Lavoie's body was found on Wednesday morning between Saint-Urbain and Baie-Saint-Paul, his family confirmed to Radio-Canada.

Lavoie, 55, was with another part-time firefighter, Christopher Lavoie, 23, helping residents trapped by rising river levels when the current swept them away.

The two men are not related.

While police would not immediately confirm the identity to reporters, citing the need for an official coroner's identification, Marylou Lavoie, Régis's daughter, confirmed to Radio-Canada that police told her the body found near the Rivière du Gouffre was her father.

Marylou told Radio-Canada on Tuesday that her father was in an amphibious ATV with Christopher Lavoie when the strength of the current capsized their vehicle.

"My dad tried to hold on to a tree, but it didn't work," she said, relaying information she heard from police. "The [ATV] hit him and the current took him."

A helicopter was dispatched to the scene to carry out search-and-rescue operations. The Canadian Armed Forces also deployed a Griffon helicopter and a Lockheed C-130 Hercules plane to monitor the floods and assist in the search.

Baie-Saint-Paul is on the north shore of the Saint-Lawrence River, about 95 kilometres northeast of Quebec City.

The region has been hit hard by flooding. Torrential rains caused river levels to rapidly rise on Monday. The floodwaters swept away motorhomes, damaged houses and destroyed roads.

Death draws attention to firefighter training

Régis Lavoie's family has raised questions about why he and Christopher were involved in the flooding operation at all.

"Why wasn't a helicopter called in if it was so dangerous? If the water was so high, why did they send my father?" Marylou said Tuesday.

Last week, coroner Géhane Kamel released a report examining the death of Pierre Lacroix, a Montreal firefighter who drowned during a water rescue in the Lachine Rapids in 2021.

Kamel recommended the Quebec government revise its rules and regulations for firefighting departments since they haven't been updated since 2004 and don't include specific details about water rescues.

She also said the province needs to establish a training program for boat rescues.

Premier François Legault, in Baie-Saint-Paul on Wednesday to survey the damage, warned against passing judgment on the situation — and whether the two men had adequate training — until more information is available.

"We're talking about [part-time] firefighters," he said. "We're talking about a situation that evolved extremely quickly. But yes, it raises questions [about the level of training] and we're going to do the necessary analysis."

Part-time firefighters in Quebec must undergo a training course called Certificat Pompier I, a 255-hour course that covers basic firefighting skills and knowledge. Additional courses, including water rescue, are offered through the École nationale des pompiers.

André Bourassa, vice-president of the province's association of firefighters, the Fédération québécoise des intervenants en sécurité incendie, said firefighters in small towns where flooding is a possibility normally have the necessary equipment to handle it — including boats, life-jackets and rescue gear.

But he said he wasn't sure if that was the case here.

"Everything is so expensive, it's not every municipality that can afford to buy everything they would need," he said.

Premier Legault said that the amphibious ATV, known as an Argo, that Régis was using when he was lost to the current was his personal vehicle.

Bourassa said cases like these are easy to scrutinize afterward but the events seemed to have transpired extremely quickly as flash-flooding was threatening to cut off access to homes in the area.

"How fast were the circumstances evolving? I think it was something that escalated very, very fast," he said.

Fast-moving water is very difficult to navigate, he said, particularly when it is laden with mud, as it was in this case, which amplifies its strength.

"It's a very, very sad situation and very, very, dark days for the brotherhood of firefighters," he said.


Matthew Lapierre


Matthew Lapierre is a digital journalist at CBC Montreal. He previously worked for the Montreal Gazette and the Globe and Mail. You can reach him at matthew.lapierre@cbc.ca.

    Credit belongs to : www.cbc.ca

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