Ecuador earthquake: Quebec family that lost mother, son tell story

Pascale Laflamme and his daughter Laurie-Ann are recounting what happened when a 7.8-magnitude earthquake struck their home in Ecuador, killing Laflamme's wife, Jennifer Mawn, and the couple's son, Arthur, 12.

Pascal Laflamme and daughter Laurie-Ann survived 7.8 magnitude quake

Laurie-Ann Laflamme, left, and Pascal Laflamme, right, spoke with Radio-Canada after they lost half of their family in an earthquake in Ecuador. (Coralie Mensa/Radio-Canada)

A Quebec father and daughter are sharing their story about the tragic event that cut their family in half.

Pascal Laflamme and his 13-year-old daughter, Laurie-Ann, were slightly injured when the ceiling of their apartment collapsed in the 7.8 magnitude earthquake that struck Ecuador on April 16. But Laflamme's wife, Jennifer Mawn, and their 12-year-old son Arthur were killed.

"I don't think we can say we're doing well, that would be a little delusional," a sombre Laflamme told Radio-Canada's Alain Gravel in an interview Monday.

"Given the circumstances, we're doing relatively well."

'She told us she loved us'

Laflamme was in the family's apartment video-chatting with his parents in Quebec when the quake hit.

Although Laflamme said he later heard the shaking lasted up to a minute, it was only about 10 seconds before part of the concrete ceiling fell on him, knocking him out.

"When I woke up, I was in nothing less than a small tomb barely the size of a coffin," Laflamme recalled.

'My mother was hurt, and she told us she loved us.I was stuck, I couldn't move."- Laurie-Ann Laflamme

"I was bleeding, but I knew that my legs and arms were OK," he said. "Fifteen centimetres to the left or right, and I was doomed."

Walled in, Laflamme couldn't hear anyone else in the house. Laurie-Ann, on the other hand, could hear everything.

"I was in my room. I could hear the doors getting shaken. The lights were turning on and off," she said.

The girl took cover under a door frame, where she also tried to push her brother and her dog.

"Everything fell. There was dust everywhere, it was black," she said.

Hearing her father's screams, Laurie-Ann said she was "sure he was being crushed."

"My mother was hurt, and she told us she loved us. I was stuck, I couldn't move," she said, "I tried, I tried.

"You're just sitting, and your mother is screaming because she's in pain. It was very sad."

Building 'fell like a house of cards'

Laflamme said he had been convinced the building they'd moved into in the coastal town of Bahia de Caraquez was "the most solid house in the city," because it was built recently.

He said his first thought after the earthquake was, "If this house fell, the city must be destroyed, and I will die asphyxiated after I don't how long.

"My first reaction was to grab a piece of glass that was lying around and to end it right away," he said.

Laflamme said his building was rebuilt on the same spot as a two-storey building that had been condemned after another earthquake struck in 1998.

"We quickly realized there were problems. When it rained, the water would seep in," he said. "There were cracks where, for me, it didn't make any sense.

"Not only did they build on a foundation that was already tested without reinforcing it, in addition, they built a third floor above," he explained.

Laflamme said the house didn't stand a chance.

"It fell like a house cards," he said.

'Life continues'

The family of four left Montreal in 2007 to "discover the world," Pascal Laflamme wrote in a blog detailing their travels.

He and his wife's desire to broaden their children's horizons took the family to Reunion Island and Mauritius before they moved to Ecuador in 2015.

Jennifer Mawn and Pascal Laflamme travelled the world with their two children. They moved to Ecuador in 2015 after living in Mauritius and Reunion Island. (Jennifer Mawn/Facebook)

Today, Laurie-Ann speaks four languages and is dealing with the loss of her mother and brother, in part, with the help of her friends in Mauritius.

Laflamme and his daughter arrived in Quebec last Thursday. Laflamme said they will take few weeks or months to heal from the tragedy before deciding their next move.

But he said they have no intention of putting their globe-trotting lifestyle on hold.

"It was a dream we had as four. Now that we're two, why should our dream be any different?" Laflamme said.

"Life continues."

With files from Radio-Canada