Search called off for missing kayaking woman

MONTREAL – A woman who fell into the chilly St. Lawrence River waters near Montreal’s Old Port while kayaking Friday afternoon remained missing Saturday as a search for her was called off.

The coast guard and police did not attempt a search Saturday following a day of attempts to locate the missing woman.

A Canadian Forces Griffon helicopter, which flew a grid pattern over the site and downriver, on both sides of the Jacques Cartier Bridge, was among the search-and-rescue equipment brought in, to no avail.

Coast guard spokesperson Nathalie Letendre said the search was suspended Friday about 4 p.m. – 3 1/2 hours after the woman fell in the water from a two-seater kayak. “We only search for people who might be alive,” Letendre said.

Montreal Police spokesperson Olivier Lapointe said no additional searches would be started unless someone reports a sighting worth investigating. The river’s current is too strong and the body could be anywhere, Lapointe said.

Paddling west against the stiff current Friday in the tiny blue two-seater kayak, the woman along with a man, came perilously close to a mid-river navigational-lane buoy “but managed to pass it” when a surge in the current smashed them and their fragile vessel back and against the buoy, eyewitness Ronald Lavallee said.

“The kayak folded up (against the buoy) like a wallet,” Lavallee added.

“One second we saw them paddling. The next, they were in the water,” said Mehdi Tremblay, another eyewitness.

One of the kayakers, a man who “looked about 45,” Lavallee said, was pulled from the river, wearing a life-jacket, by a crew that rushed to the buoy on another vessel.

“He wasn’t in the water very long,” Lavallee said of the male survivor.

The woman’s life-jacket was sighted and recovered within minutes of the incident, leading to doubts about her prospects for survival in the water.

The kayaking outing went wrong just off the Quai de l’Horloge in the Old Port, roughly midway between the old clock tower and the geodesic dome on Ile Sainte-Helene that housed the American Pavilion during Expo 67.

Montreal Gazette

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