May 12th, 2010
08:46 AM ET

Family dead in basement after sinkhole swallowed home

The bodies of a Canadian couple and their two daughters were found late Tuesday in the basement of their house that plunged into a massive sinkhole, CNN affiliates reported.

"They were found very close to one another, some of them lying on the couch in the family room in the basement, where we were told that they'd be," said Michel C. Doré, Quebec's associate deputy public security minister, who was on the scene, told CNN affiliate CBC.

Yvon Desrochers, uncle of homeowner Richard Préfontaine, told the CBC on Tuesday feared his nephew and his family were in the basement watching the Montreal Canadiens-Pittsburgh Penguins hockey playoff game Monday night when the ground gave way beneath the home, about 40 miles northeast of Montreal.

Besides Préfontaine, those in the home were his wife, Lyne Charbonneau, and their two daughters, Amélie, 12, and Anaïs, 9.

The family’s dog was found alive – caked in mud – in the sinkhole earlier Tuesday.

The hole was about 500 yards long and forced the evacuation of five other homes in the town of Saint-Jude, in a rural area near the Yamaska River.

While there was no official word on the cause of the sinkhole, geologist Judith Patterson told CNN affiliate CTV that the sinkhole looked like a kind of landslide known as a “lateral spread.”

The region has soils known as “quick clay” that can liquefy, leading to a landslide or sinkhole, she told CTV.

"These clays, they're stable when they're undisturbed. But once they're disturbed, then they become very hazardous," she told CTV.

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Filed under: Canada
soundoff (578 Responses)
  1. Brian

    @Adame "'known as not 'know as'. Damnit CNN, you guys most certainly need to hire more overpayed editors."

    You mean "overpaid"?

    May 12, 2010 at 9:32 am | Report abuse |
  2. PinkFloyd43

    Why were homes allowed to be built in this area. I am quite sure that someone knew that building there was a risk but in the rush for the $$$$ they did it anyway.

    May 12, 2010 at 9:36 am | Report abuse |
    • Jo

      Because quick clay and the risks associated with it was not understood until the 1970's when most developments had already been build. Similar risk living near a volcano or on the side of a steep mountain – but its pretty to live there. Also if you assoss how many people have ever dies through quick clay slides verses how many ahve ever live on areas of quick clay without any instability – this risk would be low.

      June 1, 2010 at 6:01 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Me

    This was truly a "freak accident" and possibly fate. I hope they did not suffer.

    May 12, 2010 at 9:36 am | Report abuse |
  4. WorkinIt

    Ok if I start feeling my house sliding into a sink hole, I think I'm going to follow my dog. On a related note, at least PETA won't be whining and complaining about this incident.

    May 12, 2010 at 9:38 am | Report abuse |
  5. Guru

    FLASHLB – Im glad you defined different types of affiliates for us all.

    Good for you!

    May 12, 2010 at 9:39 am | Report abuse |
  6. GOD fearing

    GOD Bless them and their loved ones.

    Nick- word of warning to you- If you are going to dance with the devil make damn certain you know all the right steps. JERK

    May 12, 2010 at 9:44 am | Report abuse |
  7. PHR34K

    I can't believe that some of you are actually worried about the STUPID DOG!!! A family of 4 was killed & you worry about the dog that is just stupid & heartless. & to Nick the man of Science why does it matter to you if people speak of God if you don't believe in him that is your choice as it is other peoples choice to believe in him. Someone else believing in God does not hurt you so how about you just keep your mouth shut!!!!! R.I.P. Préfontaine family.

    May 12, 2010 at 9:45 am | Report abuse |
  8. Russ

    To Lorin.... THE DOG?!? A whole family died...and all you thought about is the well being of the dog?!? People...its an animal.

    May 12, 2010 at 9:48 am | Report abuse |
  9. Erik

    CBC is an affilate of CNN flashlb, just to clear up your long and incorrect comment. Do research before typing something false. Thanks!

    May 12, 2010 at 9:48 am | Report abuse |
  10. Jessica

    I don't know how you read flashlb's comment but it was definitely NOT anti-American. It was anti-Canadian, so . . . . .
    get over it – its an accurate story

    May 12, 2010 at 9:50 am | Report abuse |
  11. Ray - London


    Your scenario of survivability after this type of disaster would only be likely if you had a big "S" on your chest and hailed from Krypton. The combination of tons of material from a collapsing structure and an enveloping sea of mud would make survivability not only unlikely, but near impossible. However, you're the type who likely thinks he could weather tornadoes, hurricanes, floods and earthquakes without a scratch. Please avail yourself of these opportunities and show us you're as tough as you claim.

    May 12, 2010 at 9:51 am | Report abuse |
  12. NYCDAP

    @Lorin, shut up.

    May 12, 2010 at 9:52 am | Report abuse |
  13. NYCDAP

    @Russ, THANK YOU. Didn't see your comment before posting mine.

    May 12, 2010 at 9:54 am | Report abuse |
  14. Deedee

    Guess what – if I died and my dog was found alive, my family would LOVE to have my dog. It would be a connection to me that they could keep around for a few years and it would mean a LOT to them.

    None of the comments about the dog have anything at all to do with people thinking the dog matters more than the family. Stop making stupid assumptions and realize people care about the pets in their family as well as their extended family members.

    In my family we care for each other's pets whenever anyone's away and we'd take them in and love them if something happened to the family member and be very glad to have them!

    May 12, 2010 at 9:54 am | Report abuse |
  15. Matt

    RIP, what a random way to go.

    May 12, 2010 at 9:55 am | Report abuse |
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