1 dead, 1 missing after snowmobile goes through the ice near Kangiqsujuaq, Nunavik

One person has been found dead, and another is missing after their snowmobile was reported to have gone through a crack in the sea ice near the village of Kangiqsujuaq, in Nunavik.

The body of a 31-year-old woman was found about 25 kilometres from the village. The other driver of the snowmobile, a 41-year-old man, has not been found by local search and rescue which had been out looking since Sunday.

A hunter in the community discovered the woman's body on Sunday night. He was passing by on his snowmobile, and saw some debris floating on the surface of some open water, where the ice had given way.

"He thought it was garbage," said Nalaak Mifsud, the village's municipal manager. "They started collecting evidence. Backpack, jacket … they found a body floating over there."

The woman's body was brought to the local health centre, where she was pronounced dead.

Around 15 people, including several Canadian Rangers, then went out to look for the man's body.

A diver went to look under the surrounding ice, without success. It was impossible for the diver to go all the way down to the seabed, the depth reaching 60 metres.

The teams were able to scrape the bottom with a grappling hook tied at the end of a long rope and managed to pull the snowmobile up.

"We started to do a search pattern on a small area. We were hoping it would be a Ski-doo and we were hoping the body would be stuck to the machine," Mifsud said.  "We hooked it with a thicker rope and we were able to put it on the surface … it was just a Ski-doo, no body."

About 15 people have been looking for the man's body since Sunday.
About 15 people have been looking for the man's body since Sunday. (Submitted by Naalak Mifsud )

An underwater drone is also expected to be delivered to the village from Kuujjuaq, to help searchers look at the seabed in the area. The underwater search will continue once that device arrives.

A busy area 

The area where the incident took place, south of the community, is a popular route to get to fishing and hunting spots, Mifsud said.

Hunters are also still going out at this time of year, despite the risk of rising spring temperatures.

"That was a main road where we go camping. The driver was out in the night and I don't think he saw the crack," Mifsud said.

The Nunavik Police Service is asking the community to be cautious when travelling in those more risky areas.

"Inuit have a very good understanding of the territory and the sea ice. But it has become more and more unpredictable with climate change" Jean-François Morin, deputy chief of operations with the Nunavik Police Service, said in French.

"You have to be very careful," he added. "Venturing onto the ice these days is considered dangerous and should be avoided."