“People sent him into a river, in a rowboat, when he couldn’t even swim. At the end of the line, the anger and pain of the father of Christopher Lavoie, one of the two firefighters missing in Saint-Urbain, are palpable.
“He’s a volunteer firefighter for the purpose of putting out fires or responding to emergencies, but not to go away in a boat in similar conditions,” exclaimed Davy Lavoie in an interview with La Press. Her son Christopher, 24, had been a volunteer firefighter for a year and a half. “He loved that job,” he said.
Around 2 p.m. Monday, Christopher and his colleague Régis Lavoie, 55, were swept away while trying to help residents struggling with flooding in Saint-Urbain, a small town half an hour north of Baie-Saint-Paul.
The distraught father cannot help but wonder how such a tragedy could have happened. “There is no police or even the army who would have [thrown] in such a river,” he said, his voice charged with emotion. “I understand my son’s adrenaline, but how influenced was he in these decisions? Who is going to take responsibility for all this? »
He knows that the chances of finding his boy alive are slim. “There’s very little chance of him getting snagged on a branch, not to mention hypothermia.” »
“I’m so shaken. They are volunteer firefighters. All they want is to help their fellow citizens, ”says the mayor of Saint-Urbain, Claudette Simard, on the phone.
The one who has represented the City for 36 years, as a municipal councilor and then mayor, speaks of the tragedy that has occurred in the community as an “unprecedented” situation. Swelled by a rain of rare intensity and by the sudden melting of snow in the mountains, the Gros Bras and Petit Bras rivers, two tributaries of the Gouffre river which crosses Saint-Urbain, came out of their beds in just a few hours.
“The water rose very quickly. Otherwise, it’s obvious [that the firefighters] would not have gone to get them out, ”describes Claudette Simard on the phone.
To fight fires or intervene in emergency situations, municipalities in Quebec call on volunteer firefighters. These citizens work on call and generally have another occupation. Depending on the locality, they are paid or voluntary and do not all have the same training.
The search started Monday by the Sûreté du Québec (SQ), with the support of the Canadian Armed Forces, continued all day Tuesday.
Twenty patrollers on foot and in all-terrain vehicles (ATVs), a helicopter, boats, a drone and divers have been deployed by the police force for this purpose, said a spokeswoman for the SQ, Béatrice d ‘Orsainville, at a press conference alongside the Minister of Public Security, François Bonnardel, in Baie-Saint-Paul.
“We always have hope, and of course for the families, different scenarios can be considered, [but] right now, we still have hope,” she explained.
According to André Bourassa, acting vice-president of the Quebec Federation of Fire Safety Stakeholders, it is possible that firefighters across the province will develop trauma following the tragedy in Saint-Urbain. “There may be firefighters, in municipalities very similar to the one where the accident occurred, who will now be very afraid to intervene,” he told La Presse.