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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  1. J. Wood

    Not actually a sinkhole. A sinkhole is the collapse of and underground cavern usually in limestone bedrock as a result of an underground river eroding the rock. In this case in Quebec it is a mudslide caused by unstable marine clay (know locally as Leda clay). The clay was laid down during the ice age when there was a marine incursion in this area. Progressive leaching of marine salts from the clay causes it to become metastable. Once it reaches this state any shock or disturbance will cause liquefaction and it flows downslope. The whole St. Lawrence Valley is underlain with this type of clay and aerial photos show that there have been many of these mudslides in the past.

    May 12, 2010 at 10:57 am | Report abuse |
  2. Lorin

    Some people can be so ignorant. I'm sure the family would want someone to take care of their dog. I'm sure they wouldn't want the dog to be forgotten other. And, for people with REAL hearts as opposed to hollow one's, animals are part of a family. They aren't just an animal, they have feelings too, believe it or not. My post was in no way disrespectful to the family. I feel horrible for what has happened to them but I can see the dog surviving as a miracle too, at least one way of keeping that family alive to their loved ones. I feel sorry for those of you who can't.

    May 12, 2010 at 10:58 am | Report abuse |
  3. The Dark Lord Approaches

    The Dark Lord invades your mind as stink holes swallow negative equity.

    Mark 2:22

    May 12, 2010 at 10:58 am | Report abuse |
  4. The Dark Lord Approaches

    Fear is the opening for the devil. For when ye fear ye are ridden with the Devils Tongue.

    Matthew 867-5209

    May 12, 2010 at 11:00 am | Report abuse |
  5. Lorin

    Russ- I'm pretty sure I expressed concern for the family as well as the dog. And, I see nothing wrong with that. What I see wrong with people is the fact that they are so careless and heartless towards animals, as if they aren't living beings themselves. Shame on you for not caring at all. Try not being ignorant, you may go further in life.

    May 12, 2010 at 11:03 am | Report abuse |
  6. petey boy

    Hey animal lover! who Gives a flying F what happens to the dog, or the dogs health. I hope they ship it to Korea where it will be filteled and BBQ'd. Worry about human life no sub-human animals with the mental ability of a 6 month old child.

    Abyone who puts animals before human life should be thrown into the lion habitat at the zoo to see how much you love them then.

    May 12, 2010 at 11:03 am | Report abuse |
  7. God loves DOGS more than humans.

    I have to laugh at the "believers" on here who call the non-believers SWINE. How very, very Christian of you.

    May 12, 2010 at 11:04 am | Report abuse |
  8. Teresa

    flashlb...your compassion is underwhelming.

    May 12, 2010 at 11:04 am | Report abuse |
  9. david

    Replying to Number 3.... "overpayed" ??? I think you're the one who needs spelling help. It's "overpaid" dummy!

    May 12, 2010 at 11:04 am | Report abuse |
  10. Ruth


    That's 'overpaid'. Yes, the editing (or rather lack of) is horrendous on the news websites!

    May 12, 2010 at 11:05 am | Report abuse |
  11. MamaSue

    GOD bless the surviving family and I PRAY that the deaths of the deceased was quick and painless. It's nice that the dog survived, but for ANYONE to make that their first reaction to this tragedy is just wrong. But hey, this *IS* CNN. Loony libs are everywhere!! ;o)

    May 12, 2010 at 11:05 am | Report abuse |
  12. Lorin

    NYCDAP- An entire family died and all you can comment is for me to shut up. Now, that my friend is heartless. And to be honest a complete waste of a post that someone else could have used.

    May 12, 2010 at 11:05 am | Report abuse |
  13. rachel


    May 12, 2010 at 11:05 am | Report abuse |
  14. Geo

    Get soil tests and don't build homes on limestone. Build homes on bedrock.

    May 12, 2010 at 11:06 am | Report abuse |
  15. Daniel

    Maybe we need to stop thinking God did and start thinking that the Devil could be behind this since he's in charge of the Underworld. He killed these God loving ppl when God's back was turned. As for the non-believers, would you want me and the rest the believers to FORCE our belief on YOUR non belief? I didn't think so.

    May 12, 2010 at 11:07 am | Report abuse |
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