Quebec woman drowns in ‘trash the dress’ photo session gone horrifically wrong

Nadine Kalinauskas
Good News Writer
Daily Brew

Newlywed Maria Pantazopoulos, 30, drowned at a photo shoot this weekend — in her wedding dress.

The Laval, Quebec, real estate agent was swept away in the Ouareau River near Dorwin Falls, about 75 kilometres north of Montreal, on Friday during a "trash the dress" session, "a wedding photography trend in which brides destroy their gowns in a symbolic final send-off for the garment," CTV News reports.

Pantazopoulos had been standing in about 15 to 30 centimetres of water at the time. As her dress soaked up the water, she found it impossible to get out of the water, a spokesman for the Quebec provincial police told CBC News.

The photographer's girlfriend, Anouk Benzacar, added that the bride wanted a picture of herself floating in the water, so she moved out to a deeper part of the river where she couldn't touch the bottom.

Pantazopoulos' photographer, Louis Pagakis, told CTV News that the woman knew how to swim, but that the weight of her soaking wet dress dragged her down. The photographer and his assistant were unable to lift her out — she was pulling him under with her — and she was swept away by a strong current.

"I tried to save her. I jumped in…I was screaming, yelling. Somebody else came…We tried our best to save her but we couldn't save her," Pagakis told CTV Montreal.

"When she let go, he freaked," Benzacar said. "He dove to try to find her, but he couldn't."

The dress, saturated in water, would have weighed at least 100 pounds, provincial policeman Jean-Michel Masse told QMI Agency.

"It was like an anvil," Masse said.

Pantazopoulos had been married on June 9th. Her husband, Billy, was not at the photo shoot.

"She's a really fun girl, and she just didn't want her wedding dress sitting in a box in the closet," Leeza Pousoulidis, a family friend, told the Montreal Gazette. "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.'"

The story is making headlines as a cautionary tale for women who want to capture stunning images of the final moments of their gowns.

Photographer Marco Michaud says he almost lost another client the same way in May.

"Brides think they're getting a beautiful picture, but they don't realize how heavy a wet wedding dress can be," Michaud said.

"Trash the dress" photography sessions can include dangerous situations for brides. Some brides set their gowns on fire. Others go for a swim. Some hop rickety fences, others explore garbage dumps and abandoned buildings. While Pantazopoulos' story appears to be the first reported case of death and/or serious injury during one of these potentially risky photo shoots, Michaud cautions brides to ensure they're not risking their lives for the perfect shot.

[ More Daily Brew: Police arrest Chunqi Jiang in the case of body parts victim Guang Hua Liu ]