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. Bob

    Please don't pray to a god who did this to these poor people. Please?

    May 12, 2010 at 10:17 am | Report abuse |
  2. Ed

    I guess the Canadiens brought the house down that night.

    May 12, 2010 at 10:17 am | Report abuse |
  3. Peter Fulton Foss

    Adame, do you realize you misspeledl "overpaid" while pointing out the typo on "known"?

    May 12, 2010 at 10:18 am | Report abuse |
  4. cantos

    A tragedy that needn't have happened. Why was developmemnt permitted on unstable clay soil? Our hearts go out to relatives and neighbors and it's nice that the dog survived.

    May 12, 2010 at 10:19 am | Report abuse |
  5. ACH76

    This story is, indeed, a unique tragedy. But shame on anyone who expressed shock that some of us are concerned about the welfare of the beloved family pet! One of you went so far as to say that it was "heartless" to feel concern for the animal. If I died tomorrow, I would certainly hope that some kind-hearted people would take care of my dog in the aftermath. Compassion does not end at humanity; the fact that people feel regard and empathy for all living things is one of the most wonderful attributes of being human. God rest this tragic family, their loves ones, and, yes, their dog, too.

    May 12, 2010 at 10:20 am | Report abuse |
  6. Kitty Conrad

    At Adame Esmakidze,
    It's overpaid, not overpayed. Good job there on correcting others you hypocrit

    Posted by: Ell

    The correct spelling would be hypocrite. You people who want to correct everybody else should have a dictionary in your lap at all times.

    May 12, 2010 at 10:20 am | Report abuse |
  7. Jessa

    What a tragedy...if it was my family and there was any small miracle even if it was only my dog. I would be holding my son in my arms in heaven while we both looked down shouting with joy that our dog has survived! If that was the only small light of hope, we would celebrate it and hope our family & friends could in time find some happiness in that one small miracle. My thought and prayers are with the family.

    May 12, 2010 at 10:20 am | Report abuse |
  8. DonTheCanuck

    As a Canadian patriot, it saddens me that throughout the last 2 days reading the various comments on this story, I see Canucks bashing Yanks and Yanks bashing Canucks. A family of 4 has died in this tragedy and all you can think to do is use the public forum to bash someones culture? They are both great countries and also each have many faults, but the comment section on what has now become the eulogy for this poor family is NO place to debate it.

    I'm no geologist, but from the information I've gotten around here, I've been given to believe that the ground in this area was considered stable 15 – 20 yrs ago when these houses were built and that the factors leading up to the apparent liquification of the clay could not have been forseen. This was a random tragedy with NO ONE at fault. That is the worst kind. No one to blame. It's frustrating as hell, but the reality of the thing. RIP folks. Thoughs are with the rest of the family today.

    Oh yea ... I more than likely mis-spelled some things here ... I get that ... no need for any of you egomaniacal, high school english teacher wannabes to point it out for me

    May 12, 2010 at 10:21 am | Report abuse |
  9. Believer

    Nick, buddy, better open those eyes a little wider.

    May 12, 2010 at 10:21 am | Report abuse |
  10. me

    @ Ell....its hypocrite not hypocrit....good job on correcting others!

    May 12, 2010 at 10:22 am | Report abuse |
  11. Angela

    @ Dorothy, thank you...I could not have said it better myself AND you saved me some time.

    I am horrified by the way this family died and I truly hope they did not suffer. Nobody ever knows how much time we have on Earth and all it's Science, but I know God will take care of each and every one of us in the end. I am praying for the family and everyone who loves them (and the dog too). R.I.P.

    May 12, 2010 at 10:23 am | Report abuse |
  12. Mel

    I feel bad for laughing, but that was really funny Ed. Well, at least they died knowing we didn't lose the series yet. :)

    May 12, 2010 at 10:23 am | Report abuse |
  13. JStrnad

    Why did God create a sinkhole to swallow up this particular family? They must have been really evil. Maybe Pat Robertson can explain it to us.

    All snarkiness aside, I am sorry for this family–who most likely did not do anything to bring on their deaths other than building a house on unstable soil–and my condolences go to their survivors, and I, too, am glad the dog survived.

    May 12, 2010 at 10:23 am | Report abuse |
  14. Kitty Conrad

    Adame, do you realize you misspeledl "overpaid" while pointing out the typo on "known"?

    Posted by: Peter Fulton Foss

    This is getting to be way too much for one day. Your misspelled word, Peter, is "misspeledl."

    May 12, 2010 at 10:24 am | Report abuse |
  15. rikkyt

    Hey....God is a concept

    Think about it.

    There u just proved my point

    What people have is "faith' and they use " it " to validate their beliefs as "truth"

    May 12, 2010 at 10:24 am | Report abuse |
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