Gracefield, Que., house fire: 2 young children confirmed as victims

A two-year-old girl and four-year-old boy were killed in a fire at their house in the small western Quebec community of Gracefield Thursday, their devastated parents confirm.

Mathew Robillard, 4, and Mélanie Courtney, 2, were sleeping when fire started

Mathew Robillard, 4, and his sister Mélanie Courtney, 2, were sleeping when a fire broke out at their home in Gracefield, Que., their grandmother told CBC News. (provided)

A two-year-old girl and four-year-old boy were killed in a fire that destroyed their house in the small western Quebec community of Gracefield, their devastated parents confirmed.

​Teenah Snowden said she was at home with her three sleeping children when the fire broke out in the kitchen around 3:30 p.m. ET Thursday.

​"I was home, I was making french fries and the oil caught on fire," she said.

"I went out to try and get an extinguisher beside the garage and it was frozen in the ice, I couldn’t get it out. I ran back in and grabbed the baby out of his high chair."

Snowden said she put eight-month-old William in the garage and tried to get upstairs to the two other children, but couldn't because of the smoke.

"(My partner) Eric came in the yard, I just started screaming at him, ‘there’s a fire, the babies are upstairs.’ He ran upstairs, he couldn’t breathe so he broke a window to stick his head out to breathe and he went back in," she said.

"He came out a couple of times with his head out the window, I could hear him screaming ‘Mélanie, Mathew.’ they weren’t answering."

Mathew Robillard, 4, and Mélanie Courtney, 2, perished in the fire. Snowden said Mathew's cat died as well.

'Happiest kids in the whole wide world'

Relatives said they were remembering the two of them as smart, sweet children.

Eric Courtney and Teenah Snowden's family home burned down on Thursday night. Two of their children did not get out. (CBC)
"Mathew was very intelligent, for a four-year-old he really knew his electronics, he could play the electronic games on the iPods and all that really well," Jayne Courtney said.

"Mélanie was a little wee sweetheart, very tiny, very short like my Eric … but cute, really cute."

"I had a new cellphone and (Mathew) turned the music on my phone," said Snowden.

"I was on my way to work, I shut the music off by accident and I came this close to having to call the babysitter to ask my four-year-old how to turn the music back on."

"They were joyful," Eric Courtney said. "They were the happiest kids in the whole wide world."

Community donating supplies

Police said the three surviving family members were taken to hospital to be treated for smoke inhalation and shock after the fire

Thursday's fire on Eloi Lachapelle Street in Gracefield, Que., put three members of a family in hospital. Police on Friday morning recovered two bodies. (CBC)
​Police said autopsies will be conducted on the children's bodies.

The couple's other five children were not home when the fire broke out. The parents say their oldest son, age 16, is on a church trip to Peru and doesn't know what happened.

The evening of the fire, Gracefield Mayor Joanne Poulin was among members of the small community who gathered near the scene of the blaze.

"It's tragic," Poulin said. "For a small community like us, it's not easy for everybody."

Courtney said the couple had been building a new home down the street, but had delayed the project due to lack of funds.

Members of their community are coming together to help them finish the house and fill it with furniture.

"It’s really overwhelming… we have an abundance of clothes already, there's food coming in too," Courtney said.

"They do have another home they can eventually finish, the municipality is jumping in to help there too, bringing in contractors to help finish the house and they'll probably move back in there."

Gracefield is about 90 kilometres north of downtown Ottawa.


  • An earlier version of this story gave the boy's age as two and the girl's age as four. In fact, the boy is four and the girl is two.
    Feb 27, 2015 7:57 AM ET