After more than two weeks of searching, provincial police say they have found what they believe are the bodies of Stéphane Roy and his 14-year-old son Justin inside the helicopter Roy was last seen piloting on July 11.
In a tweet just before 4 p.m., the Sûreté du Québec said a ground team sent to the spot where an SQ helicopter searching for the pair located Roy’s downed aircraft earlier today found two lifeless bodies inside.
The bodies have not yet been formally identified.
Roy is the founder and owner of Serres Sagami, a company based in Sainte-Sophie, Que., which sells greenhouse-grown tomatoes under the Savoura label and other produce.
The tweet from the SQ came an hour after police announced they had found a missing helicopter near Lac Valtrie, about 90 kilometres north of Mont-Tremblant, Que.
Lac Valtrie is about 170 kilometres south of Lac-De La Bidière, where Roy had been fishing with his son.
The pair had set off for home in Sainte-Sophie, 60 kilometres north of Montreal, on July 11 aboard Roy’s Robinson R44 helicopter, but never arrived.
The Canadian Armed Forces joined in the search for the pair, deploying its Griffon helicopters and Hercules C-130 planes, but they relinquished the case to the provincial police Saturday, after more than a week of fruitless searching.
Air force search-and-rescue teams had been flying slowly and at low altitudes looking for the missing father and son, but a thick forest canopy and highly dangerous terrain hampered their efforts.
The initial search area was about 20,000 square kilometres, but rescuers used cellular data to narrow the search zone to about 2,200 square kilometres.
The SQ, too, briefly suspended its own search efforts earlier this week, wanting to review the evidence in the case before they continued.
When the search resumed, it focused on a thickly forested area north of Mont-Tremblant provincial park, by triangulating the information obtained from cell phone towers.
The SQ had teams on both the ground and in the air Thursday, as well as others searching in lakes.
Family always had hope
Over the 15 days Stéphane Roy and his son were missing, their family maintained hope that they were still alive.
Just Thursday morning, the man’s brother, Daniel Roy, told CBC Montreal’s Daybreak he still believed Stéphane was alive because he thrived in outdoor environments.
“He is a fighter, and his son looks like his father. They do everything together. He is like his father,” Daniel Roy said.
Stéphane Roy had been in emergency situations in aircraft before, his brother said, describing an incident in which Roy’s aircraft engine failed, but he had landed it safely.
He was an experienced pilot who always took the same route to get home, Daniel Roy said.
Stéphane had gone through extensive emergency training, his brother said, and his entrepreneurial success was also a sign of his resilience.
“My brother started the business from nothing so you can imagine how strong he can be,” Daniel Roy said Thursday morning.
André Michaud, a friend of Roy’s and a spokesperson for his company, Serres Sagami, said Thursday afternoon’s discovery that the pair did not survive is difficult for Roy’s family and for Roy’s 400 employees.
“[His family] would like to thank the public for their help in the searches and the messages of support over the last two weeks,” Michaud said in a statement to Radio-Canada.
Quebec Premier François Legault extended his condolences to the Roy family on behalf of the Quebec government in a tweet Thursday.
“All of Quebec is with you in this difficult moment,” he said.
Legault also thanked everyone who was involved with the search.