Police in Maine were notified that a Quebec couple was missing about an hour before the couple’s family found the wreckage of their car Tuesday in West Forks Plantation.

Relatives of Martin Poulin and Francine Dumas had crossed the border to search for them Tuesday after pushing authorities to find out what happened to them and not getting answers, one member told a Montreal newspaper Wednesday.

They’d been trying to find out what had happened to the couple after they didn’t return to Quebec Thursday as expected then failed to show up at a wedding in Beauceville, Quebec, last Saturday.

Poulin and Dumas, both 58, were found dead Tuesday afternoon in the car wreckage off U.S. Route 201 by Poulin’s son and daughter and two companions.

The couple had left Saint-Georges, Quebec, a week before that — on July 28 — crossing the international border at Jackman Station just after 10:30 a.m. The couple, married only a short time, were en route to Hampton Beach, New Hampshire, for a visit and were to return to Quebec Thursday.

Dumas’ son, Renald Lacasse, told the Journal de Montreal on Wednesday that the couple had been expected back on Thursday, July 30, and that the wedding was two days later, on Saturday.

The Quebec Provincial Police put out a missing-persons report about Poulin and Dumas through the Maine Information and Analysis Center about 1 p.m. Tuesday — about an hour before the car wreckage was found. It was the first authorities in Maine had heard of the missing couple, police said.

But family members had been worried since Friday, the day after they were due to return, Lacasse told the Journal, and on Saturday contacted police in Hampton, New Hampshire. The article in the Journal, one of the city’s French-language newspapers, was translated into English for this story by the Morning Sentinel.

“But it didn’t proceed fast enough. No news got back to us,” he said. Lacasse said police in New Hampshire “checked in Hampton Beach and as far as Boston,” without finding any information about the couple.

Lacasse said Poulin’s children and he decided to look for themselves Tuesday.

“We wouldn’t find anything, but at least we would know for certain,” he said.

Poulin’s son and daughter went across the border Tuesday and saw the skid marks on the road and “personal items” that led them to the crash, according to Lacasse’s account.

Somerset County Chief Deputy James Ross said Wednesday that the family members, who police haven’t identified, “were the ones that found them.”

“We’re assuming that this (crash) happened on July 28 when they crossed the border,” Ross said, because the couple’s cellphones and credit cards had not been used after they entered the United States.

“When you discover your parents dead in the bottom of a car, that’s (unusual) enough. We saw what we didn’t want to see,” Lacasse told the Montreal newspaper. “At least they didn’t appear to have suffered.”

Lacasse said Poulin and his mother had been married for just a month.

“Everything was going well,” he told the newspaper. “They were leaving for their first vacation together.”

‘A VERY HORRIFIC CRASH’

U.S. Route 201 is the main route from Quebec into Maine and points south. The two-lane road rises slightly near the scene of the accident, about 35 miles south of the border, but is mostly straight. The speed limit there is 55 mph.

Ross said there were skid marks on the road, but the reason the couple went off the road remains under investigation.

Reconstruction of the accident by police could take two or three weeks, Sheriff Dale Lancaster said Wednesday. An autopsy will be performed on the bodies by the Office of Chief Medical Examiner to determine cause, time and manner of death; but no timeline has been set on getting results.

“They could have swerved to miss a moose. They could have fallen asleep. … I don’t know if we’ll ever have that answer,” Ross said.

Lt. Carl Gottardi, of the Somerset County Sheriff’s Office, said Dumas was driving and Poulin was a passenger in the 2005 Nissan Altima. He said it appeared from evidence at the scene that Dumas lost control of the car before it left the road and crashed into the trees, some of which fell, partially obscuring the car from view, which police think is why no one discovered the wreckage for a week.

Gottardi said the car appeared to have traveled sideways for a short distance before hitting dirt on the edge of the road and crashing down an embankment.

“In that area right where the vehicle went off is a sign as you’re traveling south that warns people that it’s a high deer-hit area, but it’s also an area where we have a lot of moose collisions,” Gottardi said.

Gottardi would not speculate about whether Dumas and Poulin survived the initial crash and died later.

“All I can say is it was a very horrific crash. They went into several large trees, which caused a very, very extensive amount of damage to the vehicle; and the trauma I’m sure the people would have endured in that was pretty severe,” he said. “It was evident to me that the bodies had been there for a period of time.”

FLAGGED DOWN

Gottardi and a county deputy were traveling south Tuesday afternoon on U.S. Route 201 when they saw a group of people by the road in West Forks Plantation.

The Poulin family group found the wreckage in a stand of trees about four miles north of Berry’s General Store in West Forks a few minutes before Gottardi happened by.

Dumas’ son arrived from Quebec a short time later.

“I saw some people pulled over and go down to the ditch area,” Gottardi said. “I turned around, pulled over and put on my blue lights to see what was going on. They advised there had been an accident, so I proceeded down into the woods and located the vehicle and the deceased.”

A U.S. Border Patrol agent who speaks French stopped to assist and to console the family, Gottardi said. A woman from Quebec also stopped to help interpret.

Lacasse was critical of Maine authorities for not acting sooner on a missing person report. But Lancaster, Ross, Gottardi and the investigating corporal noted that the sheriff’s office was not alerted to the missing couple until 1 p.m. Tuesday, about an hour before family members found the wreckage.

Lacasse also said the families were not notified of the deaths before news of the crash was published on the Internet.

“We weren’t even at the customs station yet before it was on the news,” he said. “My family and his family found out on the Internet.”

Lacasse also corrected information lost in translation Tuesday by noting that the wedding the couple had planned to attend was in Quebec, not in New Hampshire. That information was also corrected by the sheriff’s office on Wednesday.

Copy Desk Chief Joseph Owen contributed to this report.

 

Doug Harlow — 612-2367

[email protected]

Twitter: @Doug_Harlow


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