Her heels and part of her dress where she went in
when they found her body a few hours later
MONTREAL - Maria Pantazopoulos had a lot to be happy about.
The 30-year-old woman had recently bought a house in Laval, started working as a real estate agent with Via Capitale, got married June 9, and went on a honeymoon in the Caribbean.
"She was really, really happy," said family friend Leeza Pousoulidis.
Pousoulidis said her friend wanted a way to immortalize her dress, and was excited to take pictures with it in Rawdon on Friday afternoon, as part of a growing trend called trash the dress, in which brides pose for pictures in their wedding dresses, often in unconventional settings like in bodies of water.
"She's a really fun girl, and she just didn?t want her wedding dress sitting in a box in the closet," Pousoulidis said. She said "I want to have fun with my wedding dress. I want to have great pictures and memories of me in my wedding dress."
But that photo shoot proved deadly. As Pantazopoulos waded into the water of the Ouareau River in Rawdon, 75 kilometres northeast of Montreal, her dress filled up and weighed her down, causing her to drown.
"She had her wedding dress on and she said, ?take some pictures of me while I swim a little bit in the lake," she went in and her dress got heavy, I tried everything I could to save her," photographer Louis Pagakis told CTV News. "I jumped in; I was screaming and yelling; we tried our best."
On Saturday, Pagakis was too distraught to speak with media, so his girlfriend, Anouk Benzacar, answered questions on his behalf.
"They were shooting a few where the water was shallow, and then she wanted to take a picture floating," Benzacar said, adding that Pantazopoulos moved out to a deeper part of the river where she could not touch the bottom. "The dress was getting heavy, so (Pagakis) went in to try move her (back to a shallow part of the river)."
She said Pantazopoulos grabbed Pagakis and was pulling him under with her, so it was impossible to bring her back to shore. Pagakis tried several times to rescue her, but eventually, Pantazopoulos ran out of strength and let go.
"When she let go, he freaked," she said. "He dove to try to find her, but he couldn't."
The incident occurred about 2 p.m. Friday. Two police officers arrived on the scene, took off their uniforms and jumped into the water to find her, SQ Sgt. Claude Denis said. Eventually an avid scuba diver from the area, who had heard the news about the accident, arrived with his gear and found the woman?s body about 4:30 p.m.
At Pantazopoulos's workplace, a colleague said they were 'bowled over' by the news.
"She was really well liked by everyone here," said real estate agent Johanne Grenier. "For us, today is a really sad day."
Pousoulidis said Pantazopoulos had a dynamic personality.
"She was a strong, tough girl. She was very petite, but she was strong in character and in physical strength as well. She was very happy and caring. She had a big heart."
She leaves behind her husband, her parents and a brother.
"The family is destroyed," Pousoulidis said, but added that family members are grateful for the hard work done by the S'ret du Qubec, and first responders in Rawdon.