A magistrate’s court assistant from Bristol, Charlotte Mei Ling Lee, 31, was declared dead in a Montreal hospital on Thursday five days after she struck a tree while snowmobiling with her boyfriend in a wilderness area about one hour north of the city.
“We are all absolutely devastated by the loss of our beautiful, tender-hearted Charlotte,” the parents of Elaine and Frank, as well as two sisters, Helen and Jenny, said in a brief statement when she was declared dead in the hospital. “Charlotte was loved by so many people and will forever be in our hearts.”
Ms Lee was apparently driving a rented snowmobile in the Ferne-Neuve recreation area close to the popular Mont Tremblant ski resort on Saturday with her boyfriend, Domynique Tamaire, riding as a passenger when she lost control and hit the tree. She incurred devastating traumatic head injuries. Mr Tamaire, 30, was also injured but survived the accident and is recovering, police officials said.
A popular sporting activity in the northern reaches of the United States in winter and in Canada, snowmobiling is nonetheless known for its risks. In Minnesota alone, roughly 10 fatalities are recorded every year, most often from loss of control and collisions. In Quebec the annual death toll ranges between 20 and 30, according to government statistics. In many remote areas, notably in Alaska, the often powerful machines have also become a vital means of transport for workers and rural residents.
The accident in Ferne Neuve is said to have happened at about 2pm last Saturday in very cold conditions and Ms Lee and her companion were rushed directly to the main Montreal hospital, where she was immediately put on a ventilator. Members of the family were at her bedside when died on Thursday. The ventilator remained on for a few hours so her organs could be preserved to be donated.
The death of the Ms Lee, known to friends as Lotty, was confirmed at the time by a city coroner.
“Her body remains on a ventilator as her parents have made the very generous and brave decision to donate her organs for life saving purposes,” she said.
“It’s been a truly terrible week, but knowing that so many people care, send their support and want to help has been a huge comfort to Jenny and Elaine,” the family said. “Your messages of support and enormously generous donations have really touched us and we don’t think that we will ever be able to fully express our gratitude. Although our hearts are broken we are taking great comfort from the overwhelming amount of love, support, kind message and generosity of the many people that have been in touch.”
Funds have been pouring in to help the family - over £12,000, so far - in part thanks to a website that was set up soon after her accident by web designer Janie Digby. Although the hospitalisation bills are thought to be covered by insurance, the funds will go to funeral costs or be donated to charity in Charlotte’s name.
The nature of the accident was confirmed by a spokesman for the Quebec Provincial Police.
“A young woman from the UK was involved in a snowmobile accident which was driven into a tree,” he said. “It appears she was driving along a trail and lost control of the machine, maybe she did a bad manoeuvre.”