Brothers drown in canoe tragedy on French river

A family holiday in France was hit by tragedy on Sunday after two Dutch brothers died when they were swept away while canoeing on the popular Ardeche river in south central France.

Brothers drown in canoe tragedy on French river
Police in kayaks patrol the Ardeche River in south central France which is popular among holiday makers. Photo: AFP

The two boys aged 11 and 18 set off on a canoe trip down the Ardeche river with their father on Sunday afternoon.

According to reports in the French press, the boys got into a trouble when they reached the barrage at Ruoms, which creates a three metre waterfall on the river (see video below).

The waterfall is avoidable, however, with canoes and kayaks able to pass to the side of it.

Initial reports suggest their canoe flipped at this point and the two boys, who were both wearing life jackets, were thrown into the water and swept away by the fast flowing river.

The father was able to bypass the dam and take the route designed for canoes.

He raised the alarm and around a dozen firefighters and a team of divers were sent to the scene to search for the two boys.

A helicopter was also dispatched to help the search teams from the air.

The body of the 11-year-old was found 4km down stream, but the body of the 18-year-old was not located.

The search was due to begin again on Monday.

The family had been on holiday in the region staying in a cottage on the banks of the river.

The Ardeche is a popular tourist destination in summer and one of the area's big draws is the river, which offers great opportunities for kayaking and canoeing.

The river regularly floods after heavy rains which was taken at the Ruoms dam, where Sunday's tragedy occurred.


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Tourism minister: Book your French ski holiday now

France’s ski resorts will be open for business this winter, tourism minister Jean-Baptiste Lemoyne has promised - but no decision has yet been taken on whether a health pass will be required to use ski lifts.

Skiers at a French Alpine resort
Photo: Philippe Desmazes / AFP

“This winter, it’s open, the resorts are open,” Lemoyne told France 2’s 4 Vérités programme.

“Compared to last year, we have the vaccine,” he said, adding that he would “invite those who have not yet done so to [book], because … there will soon be no more room.”

And he promised an answer ‘in the next few days’ to the question of whether health passes would be required for winter holidaymakers to use ski lifts. “Discussions are underway with the professionals,” he said.

The stakes are high: the closure of ski lifts last winter cost manufacturers and ski shops nearly a billion euros. 

This year ski lifts will remain open, but a health pass may be necessary to access them. The health pass is already compulsory for après ski activities such as visits to bars, cafés and restaurants.

COMPARE The Covid rules in place at ski resorts around Europe

Many town halls and communities which depend on winter sports have found it difficult or impossible to make ends meet.

“It’s time for the French mountains to revive,” Lemoyne said, pointing to the fact that the government has provided “more than €6 billion” in aid to the sector.

Winter tourism professionals, however, have said that they are struggling to recruit for the winter season.

“Restaurant and bars are very affected,” by the recruitment crisis, one expert told Franceinfo, blaming a lack of urgency from authorities towards the winter holiday industry.

“We are all asking ourselves what we should do tomorrow to find full employment in the resort,” the expert added.

Post-Brexit visa and work permit rules mean that ski businesses have found it difficult to recruit Brits for short-term, seasonal positions.