It was a horrific scene at a nursing home in L’Isle-Verte, Montreal, Quebec on January 23, 2014. A fire tore through the home, killing 32 frail seniors. Twenty residents survived. Residence du Havre sat on the banks of the St. Lawrence River. That night a fierce wind blew off the water and exacerbated the spread of the already intense fire. At 12:30 a.m., local firefighters, as well as rescue workers from five surrounding communities, arrived, according to an eyewitness who lives across the street. The wind proved to be a hindrance to the rescue efforts. Firefighters just could not reach the victims through the flames. Soon after their arrival, the building collapsed. To add insult to injury, arctic temperatures complicated search efforts. Water used to put out the fire immediately froze, creating an icy tomb for the victims. The ice was a foot thick in some places.
The owners of the home, Roch Bernier and Irene Plante, have filed a $3.8 million civil lawsuit against the town of L’Isle-Verte. The suit alleges the community failed to implement emergency plans which might have lowered the death toll. According to wrongful death attorney, Guy Bertrand, he has found “serious and troubling facts involving the police and fire department in L’Isle-Verte, which may have been contributing factors in the failure to control the fire and prevent it from spreading.” Among the accusations are slow response times, low skill level of firefighters, inadequate water pressure and waiting too long to request back-up from neighboring cities. In addition, a firewall only surrounded a portion of the facility and significantly reduced casualties in that part of the building. Currently investigations are being carried out by Quebec provincial police, the coroner’s office and the fire commissioner. In August, the owners of the nursing home held a press conference with Betrand, demanding a public inquiry into the fire. Bernier said he is baffled as to why an investigation would take seven months and that the people of Quebec deserve to know exactly what happened.
If you suspect neglect or wrongful death, contact McAleer Law Firm to review the situation and evaluate the potential case. Call 404.MCALEER.