MONTREAL - "I can't anymore, it's too heavy," were the last words of Maria Pantazopoulos before she let go of the photographer and drowned in a river north of Montreal Friday afternoon.
The recently married 30-year-old was in her wedding dress having her pictures taken by photographer Louis Pagakis. They were shooting by the river's edge at around 2 p.m., in the town of Rawdon, Que., about 75 km north of Montreal.
Pagakis' wife, Anouk Benzacar, spoke on behalf of her husband to QMI Agency on Saturday. Benzacar was not at the river Friday, neither was Pantazopoulos' husband, Billy.
Billy and Pantazopoulos were married in June.
Benzacar said she was friends with Pantazopoulos, who wanted to get rid of the wedding dress in a stylish way.
The trendy phenomenon is called "trash the dress," where women find creative ways to get rid of their wedding dresses. Many married woman take photos of their dress-destroying escapades.
Pantazopoulos hired Pagakis to take photos of her trashing her wedding outfit.
"At one point, she told him, 'I want you to take some photos of me floating in the water'," Benzacar said.
Soon after entering the water, Pantazopoulos realized the weight of her wet dress was pulling her under, Benzacar said.
Benzacar said Pagakis jumped in the water to save Pantazopoulos, but the wedding dress was dragging both of them down.
"She was screaming and scratching and trying to stay above water," Benzacar said. "(Louis) tried to swim with her, but she was pulling him down. She was too heavy. He couldn't breathe anymore."
The dress, saturated in water, would have weighed at least 100 pounds, said provincial policeman Jean-Michel Masse.
"It was like an anvil," Masse said.
Provincial police told QMI Agency that swimming is forbidden in that part of the river due to the fast currents.
Police found Pantazopoulos' body around 6 p.m. Friday.
Leeza Pouhoulidis, a friend of Pantazopoulos' family and who spoke on behalf of relatives, told QMI Agency that the family is devastated.
"Her husband, Billy, and her mother, are destroyed," Pouhoulidis said.
Pouhoulidis said Pantazopoulos and Billy had just bought a home in Laval, Que., just north of Montreal, and they wanted to start a family immediately.
"She was small, but very strong mentally and physically," Pouhoulidis Said. "She loved to have fun. She loved life."