Canadian Firefighter Magazine

Police find two more victims at site of fatal fire in Old Montreal, total now 4

By The Canadian Press   

News fire firefighters Quebec

Mar. 23, 2023, Montreal, Que. – Police say two more bodies were recovered Wednesday from the wreckage of a building in Old Montreal that was destroyed by fire last week, bringing the total number of confirmed victims to four.

A Montreal police spokesman said the bodies of the third and fourth victims have been turned over to a pathologist for identification as the search for others continues.

Earlier Wednesday, one of the first two confirmed victims was identified and police said at that time at least five others remained missing in the rubble of the historic building.

Police Insp. David Shane identified the victim as 76-year-old Camille Maheux.

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Maheux’s body was recovered from the fire on Sunday evening; a second body was removed from the rubble on Tuesday but has not yet been identified.

“The investigation and search for other victims are ongoing,” Shane told reporters at the scene Wednesday after formally announcing Maheux’s death.

Firefighters and police said a fire tore through the historic stone building early last Thursday.

Shane told a briefing earlier in the day that searchers were targeting areas of the building where the missing people were likely located when the fire started. Searchers used a crane, specialized camera equipment and drones, he said.

Authorities have said identities of victims will only be released after confirmation from two separate methods, including a DNA test or dental records.

Martin Guilbault, a Montreal fire operations chief, said a plan to dismantle the upper floors of the three-storey building was on hold while authorities conducted a more “methodical” search. Authorities, he said Wednesday, would concentrate efforts inside the building.

Shane said the discovery of the body on Tuesday evening “confirms that the cross-referencing of the information collected by investigators allows us to effectively orient the search in the building.”

Police did not provide further details about the second victim pending identification by the coroner’s office and out of respect for families, Shane said. Investigators, he added, have not ruled out the possibility there could be more than five people missing.

“We are well aware that the wait is currently very hard and painful for the families, especially each time we announce the discovery of a new victim in the rubble,” Shane said.

Family and friends have identified some of the missing, including Saniya Khan and her childhood friend Dania Zafar, who were in Montreal for a trip.

An Wu, 31, a neuroscientist doing post-doctoral work at the University of California San Diego who was in Montreal for a conference, has also been reported missing by friends.

Charlie Lacroix, an 18-year-old from the Montreal suburb of Terrebonne, was identified by her father as one of the missing. She had rented a unit in the building on Airbnb with a friend, and Lacroix’s father said his daughter told 911 operators that she was trapped in a unit with no fire escape or windows.

Authorities have not confirmed how many of the missing people were tourists but said they were from Quebec, Ontario and the United States.

The fatal fire has raised concerns over unlicensed Airbnb-type rentals in Montreal. Police have said the building built in 1890 included units that were rented on Airbnb, the United States-based online rental marketplace, which is outlawed in that area by the city.

Montreal’s mayor this week called for Airbnb to stop listing units that don’t have a provincial permit.


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