PORTNEUF-SUR-MER — A fishing excursion ended in tragedy on Saturday when four children and one adult died in a village in northeastern Quebec, provincial police said.
Police said divers found the body of the missing man, who was in his 30s, in the river and he was pronounced dead at a hospital.
His death was announced after the bodies of four other people — all minors older than 10 — were found unresponsive on the river bank on Saturday, a few hours after an emergency call about a group swept up by the tide near Portneuf-sur-Mer, about 550 kilometres northeast of Montreal.
Police said the five were among a group of 11 people who were fishing for capelin on foot near the shore when they were caught off guard by the rising tide.
Quebec provincial police divers and Canadian Forces members took part in the search for the missing adult throughout the afternoon.
Mayor Jean-Maurice Tremblay said he did not know more about the victims or if they were from Portneuf-sur-Mer, a community of about 600 people.
"Everyone is affected by what happened, because this kind of event, it's the first time it's happened," 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. It is done on the banks of the river using scoops rather than fishing lines.
Capelin most often roll at night, so people light a fire on the shore and wait, Tremblay added.
Tremblay said the sandbank on which the victims were fishing is accessed by all-terrain vehicles. They were caught on a part 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.
A 911 call came in at about 2 a.m. on Saturday, and police said initially six people were rescued from the water and five others were reported missing — the four victims and the man.
The bodies of the four children were taken to a nearby health clinic where a doctor confirmed their deaths.
Police investigators and forensic teams have been deployed to shed light on what happened.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 3, 2023.
— By Sidhartha Banerjee in Montreal.
The Canadian Press