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Valentine’s Day tragedy in Davis Inlet

The Story


It was a bitterly cold February night in Davis Inlet. Six children, left unattended while their parents were out drinking at a Valentine's Day dance, huddled around an electric hot plate to stay warm when the curtains caught fire. A huge flame quickly engulfed their ramshackle home killing all six children. The oldest was nine; the youngest was six months. As heard in this CBC report, this Valentine's Day tragedy shocks the tiny isolated community. The fire also thrusts Davis Inlet and the plight of the Labrador Innu into the national spotlight. 

Medium: Radio
Program: Canada at Five
Broadcast Date: Feb. 17, 1992
Host: Lorna Jackson
Reporter: Conrad Lutes
Duration: 1:35

Did You know?


• Around 11 p.m. neighbours witnessed the house on fire but had no means to help. "We had no fire trucks or pumps," said Sebastian Piwas, "there wasn't even enough water nearby to fill a bucket. People said there were kids in there. But there was nothing to do but watch the building burn." — the New York Times, November 1996

• At the time of the Valentine's Day tragedy, nearly all the adults in Davis Inlet were receiving public assistance and getting drunk on home brew - a powerful concoction of sugar, molasses and yeast stirred into boiling water and left overnight to ferment.

• The six children who died in the fire were Wendy, Jeremiah, Daniel, Simon, Mary Jane and Madeline Rich. Their parents, Gregory and Agathe Rich, were charged with abandonment but a judge in Labrador dropped the charges in 1996, ruling that too much time had elapsed before the case was heard.

• As a result of the fire, the Innu held an internal inquiry which led to the publication of Gathering Voices: Finding Strength to Help Our Children. The report proposed a seven-step long-term plan including land claim settlement and establishment of a family treatment centre in the community.


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