Bodies of two Quebec volunteer firefighters found, after being swept away by floodwaters

By The Canadian Press

Quebec provincial police have found the bodies of two volunteer firefighters in a community northeast Quebec City, where they were swept away by floodwaters during a rescue mission on Monday.

Police spotted the first body from a helicopter in the St-Urbain, Que., area just before 10 a.m. Wednesday, Sgt. Beatrice Dorsainville told reporters, adding that they would wait for a coroner to confirm the person’s identity. The force issued a news release saying it appears the body is one of the two missing men.

And then by 4:30 p.m. Sûreté du Québec (SQ) confirmed they had found the second body – about 500 metres from the first earlier in the day.

Multiple media have reported that the two missing firefighters were Christopher Lavoie, 23, and Regis Lavoie, 55, who were reportedly not related.

Christopher Lavoie, 23, is one of two volunteer firefighters reported missing in intense flooding in Charlevoix May 1, 2023. (Courtesy Facebook/@christopher.lavoie.963)

Régis Lavoie, 55, is a volunteer firefighter who went missing on May 1, 2023 after trying to help residents during intense flooding in Saint-Urbain in the Charlevoix region. (Courtesy: Facebook/@Francesca Jean)


Quebec flooding

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jacques Boissinot

Quebec flooding

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jacques Boissinot


More than 90 millimetres of rain has fallen on St-Urbain since Saturday, Environment Canada said, adding that more than 60 mm of rain has fallen on nearby Baie St-Paul, where officials declared a state of emergency earlier this week and where about 600 people had been forced from their homes.

A car sits in the backyard of a house after a major spring flood hit the region, Wednesday, May 3, 2023 in Baie-Saint-Paul Que.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jacques Boissinot

Flooding has also been reported in the Lanaudiere and Laurentians regions, and in western Quebec. The Public Security Department has said a half-dozen communities across the province had declared states of emergency due to the heavy rains.

Earlier Wednesday, Quebec Premier Francois Legault visited Baie St-Paul, where flooding has washed out roads and left homes isolated. He also spoked about the missing firefighters, one of whom he said was a man in his 50s who took his own boat to help a couple whose home was surrounded by water. The other man, Legault said, was “a young boy of 23 years.”

“Twenty-three years,” Legault repeated after a short pause. “It’s an infinite sadness.”

Legault asked people not to rush to judgment about the cause of their deaths. Firefighters and first responders, he said, “do an essential but risky job. Obviously, we try to minimize these risks as much as possible, but we can say thank you for their courage.”

Psychological support and financial aid would be offered to residents of the area, he added.

“There are also people here who I spoke with who have lost what they built all their lives,” Legault said, adding that many have lost family homes that had been passed down through generations. “We will be there to help them.”

Quebec Premier Francois Legault chats with Baie-Saint-Paul mayor Michael Pilote as they tour the site of a major spring flood, Wednesday, May 3, 2023 in Baie-Saint-Paul Que. Local MNA Kariane Bourassa, left, looks on.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jacques Boissinot

Legault toured the damaged town and spoke to residents who told him they were given five minutes to evacuate. Some people asked the premier what aid would be offered to them, explaining that their insurance didn’t cover flood damage.

Government officials were scheduled to meet with residents Thursday evening to explain the available government programs to help people relocate, repair damaged homes or replace property.

In the long-term, Legault said, the government would look at how to make the region more resilient to severe flooding, which he said used to occur once every 100 years but which is becoming more common because of climate change.

Some areas that are particularly prone to flooding, however, will not be rebuilt, he warned. “Maybe we’ll have to ask some people to move; in the meantime, we’ll help the people and we’ll work with the mayors.”

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