New Zealand police find 2nd body in search for missing Quebecers Louis-Vincent Lessard, Étienne Lemieux
The 23-year-old friends were last seen at a hostel in Queenstown
Searchers in New Zealand looking for Étienne Lemieux and Louis-Vincent Lessard — two young Quebecers missing near the Kepler Track hiking trail on the South Island — have found a second body, local police said.
A statement from the New Zealand Police in the town of Te Anau said search and rescue personnel found the second body in "the same area" where the first was found earlier in the day — in a field of avalanche debris.
"Both bodies have now been brought back to Te Anau for formal identification," said the statement, issued Monday local time.
According to Scott Yeoman, a journalist at the New Zealand Herald, police found the first, male body during an aerial search of the Fiordland National Park on Sunday.
The identities of both bodies has yet to be confirmed. The police statement said both men's families have been advised of the latest development.
On Saturday, New Zealand police said Lemieux and Lessard — both 23 — were last seen July 7 (July 6 in eastern Canada time) at their hostel, the Base Backpacking Hostel in Queenstown.
They had checked in the night before and had booked just one night in the hostel.
Harsh weather on Kepler Track
The pair of Université de Montréal students had bought bus tickets to Lake Te Anau scheduled to depart early on July 7, New Zealand time. Kelly Larsen of New Zealand police in Queenstown said witnesses told police the two young men had talked about plans to trek the Kepler Track, which she said is usually about a four-day walk through the mountains.
Lemieux and Lessard are not confirmed to have gone ahead with those travel plans. If they did, they would have been met with snow and other harsh weather.
Larsen said most trails in New Zealand are self-guided.
The two young men had travelled to New Zealand on an outdoor adventure trip.
Lessard, who works at Montreal outdoor gear shop Le Boutique Yeti, had purchased some mountaineering equipment ahead of his trip, according to co-worker Dominic Denault Pilon.
Many photos on Lessard's Facebook page show him mountain biking, snowboarding and doing other outdoor activities.
"He was really, really nice. Really adventurous, really intelligent. He was actually somebody who enjoyed doing outdoor activities — skiing, hiking, cycling," Pilon said.
Another co-worker, Hugo Brunet, said Lessard truly loved the outdoors.
Their families reported them missing after they did not return on their flight home to Montreal scheduled for Friday, July 24.
Larsen said the father of one of the men said it was out of character for his son not to be in contact.
Pilon of Boutique Yeti said 20 days without a word from them does not make him hopeful.