L'Isle-Verte seniors' home fire coroner's inquest announced

A public coroner's inquest will look deeper into the circumstances surrounding one of the deadliest seniors' home fires in Canadian history.
Emergency workers search the burned out Résidence du Havre in the town of L'Isle Verte, Que., in January. (Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press)

A public coroner's inquest has been called to look deeper into the circumstances surrounding one of the deadliest seniors' home fires in Canadian history. 

Public Security Minster Lise Thériault told a news conference this morning the public inquiry will examine the cause of death of each of the 32 victims as well as details surrounding the fire at the Résidence du Havre in January in the town of L'Isle Verte, Que. 

"I hope this inquiry will allow the families and loved ones of the victim to have a clearer picture concerning the nature and causes of this tragedy," she said. 

The fire broke out in the early morning hours of Jan. 24 at the private seniors' home in the town, located not far from Rivière-du-Loup. The residents who died in the fire were unable to get out of the burning building, some perishing on external balconies while waiting for rescue.

Quebec Public Security Minister Lise Thériault said the coroner's inquest has been given the mandate of examining the cause and circumstances surrounding the deadly fire in L'Isle Verte that killed 32 seniors. (CBC)

Another 15 residents who escaped were treated for injuries. 

The blaze renewed calls for deeper examination of the safeguards and emergency plans in place for similar facilities. 

Thériault said the coroner charged with the inquiry will have the mandate of finding the cause and exact circumstances of the fire and make recommendations.

"It’s not a criminal investigation. The police are continuing that. The mandate that we’ve given them is [to determine] why this happened and what we can do to ensure that it doesn’t happen again," she said. 

The announcement comes two weeks after the owners of the seniors' home, discontent with preliminary results of ongoing investigations into the fire, asked the government for a public inquiry.

According to the owners, that public hearing is the the only way to "allow Quebecers to know the truth."

Roch Bernier, one of the owners, is part of a $3.8-million 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.

An insurance company is also involved in the lawsuit and is seeking $2.3 million of the $3.8 million.

Thériault said the timing of the announcement has nothing to do with the demand of the owners and that this type of examination would result from any situation like this that resulted in significant loss of life. 

The date of the inquiry has not been announced.

with files from Canadian Press