Ed Yoshiyama, liaison officer to the United States for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, was vacationing on a cruise ship Aug. 3 when he responded to a message on his cellphone about a missing couple driving through Maine from Quebec.

The message was from Detective Christian Turcotte of the Quebec Provincial Police requesting assistance in locating Francine Dumas and Martin Poulin, who hadn’t been heard from since they left their home in Beauceville, Quebec, July 28 to spend a few days in New Hampshire. They were due back in Quebec July 30 to attend a wedding, but never made it.

Because he was out at sea without cellphone service, Yoshiyama said Monday, he could not be sure exactly when the message had been sent to him. The time and date stamp since have been erased.

“I immediately contacted my colleague in Washington and provided him with the contact info for the (Maine Information and Analysis Center),” Yoshiyama said in an email Monday. “He managed to relay the messages between MIAC and the QPP that same day.”

At about 2 p.m. the following day — Aug. 4, seven days after the couple were last seen and five days after their family reported them missing — the bodies of Dumas and Poulin, both 58, were found in the wreckage of a 2005 Nissan Altima on U.S. Route 201 north of West Forks in northern Somerset County.

The couple had been dead for some time, according to an accident report released Monday by the Somerset County Sheriff’s Department after a Freedom of Information Act request by the Morning Sentinel.

The wreckage was found by family members at about the same time on Aug. 4 as the sheriff’s office received an email bulletin from MIAC alerting law enforcement agencies in Maine of the missing couple — a day after state police got the notification from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

The confusion over which law enforcement agencies knew the couple were missing and when they knew is readily apparent in the 18-page Somerset County Sheriff’s Office report on the accident.

The cause of the accident, which police believed happened July 28 about 35 miles south of where Dumas and Poulin crossed into Maine on Route 201, is not much clearer now than it was at the time, though the report speculates speed may have been involved. Skid marks at the scene were about 225 feet long, but may have been longer because they were fading with the passage of time.

The report, filed by Cpl. Ritchie Putnam, the primary investigator for the sheriff’s office, said there was no evidence of a collision with an animal, such as a deer or a moose, and there were no alcoholic beverages inside the car.

Yoshiyama also emailed Putnam on Aug. 12, requesting a copy of the accident report. When Putnam called him back, Yoshiyama “asked several questions about the crash scene and the circumstances about our knowledge of the missing persons report,” Putnam wrote in the report.

Sgt. Carlton Small at MIAC in Augusta and Turcotte in Quebec did not immediately return calls and emails Monday to clarify the timeline of communication after the couple did not return home and were reported missing.

Questions about that communication were raised by Dumas’ and Poulin’s family after the accident was discovered.

Dumas’ son, Renald Lacasse, told the Montreal Journal after the accident that family contacted police in Hampton, New Hampshire, on Aug. 1 about the missing family members. According to the accident report, the family had already contacted Quebec police at that point.

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

Dumas and Poulin crossed the international border near Jackman at 10:38 a.m. July 28 and never answered cellphone calls or used their credit cards after that point.

“The family could not understand why our agency had not been out looking for Francine and Martin,” Putnam wrote in his report summary. “I explained to them that we did not know that they had been reported missing.”

The report noted that both Ross and Putnam said they didn’t see the bulletin until after they had been at the scene of the crash, which Putnam was notified of at 2:13 p.m. that day.

Putnam said he also explained that the car had crashed deep into a stand of trees, some of which had collapsed onto the vehicle making it difficult to see from the road, and that no one had reported the accident or the wreckage.

Family members of the couple finally ventured off on their own, fearing something bad had happened, according to the report. They found the wreckage and flagged down Detective Lt. Carl Gottardi of the sheriff’s office as he was driving by.

Gottardi noted skid marks and evidence that showed that the car had skidded sideways as it left the paved road. The car had struck a large spruce tree and had “completely collapsed around this tree, almost folding in half” around the tree, breaking it off at the base, he said in Putnam’s report.

Police think the accident occurred the same day the couple crossed the border, noting that their cellphones and credit cards had not been used after they entered the United States, according to the sheriff’s department. The two-lane road rises slightly near the scene but is mostly straight. The speed limit there is 55 mph.

There were no witnesses to the accident.

James Ross, chief deputy at the Somerset sheriff’s office, said investigators may never know what happened.

“We’ll never know,” Ross said Monday. “There’s some marks there. It could be as simple as falling asleep. It could have been avoiding an animal. They could have been distracted. I don’t know.”

Doug Harlow — 612-2367

[email protected]

Twitter:@Doug_Harlow

 

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