Two civilian witnesses, a police officer and a fire chief, testified Tuesday at the coroner’s public inquiry into the deaths of Norah and Romy Carpentier, shedding an interesting light on the first hours after the accident that sparked the tragedy. From an unanswered offer of help to the different versions of Martin Carpentier’s dangerousness, these elements will allow coroner Luc Malouin to advance his investigation.
• Also read: Martin Carpentier, a tormented man in the weeks leading up to the tragedy
• Also read: Heartbreaking testimony from the Carpentier girls’ mother at the public inquest
• Also read: Public Inquiry: 21-day hearing to get to the bottom of the Carpentier case
An offer of research assistance went unanswered
SCREENSHOT / VAT NEWS / QMI AGENCY
The director of the Saint-Apollinaire fire department made two offers to accompany the Sureté du Québec in field research during the first days of the disappearance of Norah and Romy Carpentier, offers that have remained dead letter.
Martin Miller made initial telephone contact the day after the accident and went so far as to appear in person at the local SQ station two days later, on Friday. On site, a patrol officer simply told him that he would pass the message on to his superiors.
“I never had a return,” says Mr. Müller.
The only request made to his service was a roadblock to notify motorists of the disappearance.
“We sent you to a roadblock instead of looking in the woods,” coroner Luc Malouin asked, visibly disbelieving.
“The competent authority for this type of intervention was the SQ and it was important to me to wait for their instructions,” replied the fire chief, who even “had to hold his firefighters back” at some point.
“It was difficult because we wanted to help. We decided on Friday afternoon to patrol public roads with our vehicles.
Fire officials were then mobilized to manage the impromptu volunteers who showed up on the scene Saturday to help with the search. Approximately 250 volunteers were deployed among Commander Miller’s teams.
Request from an investigator after the accident on the 20th: “We are thinking about it”
The first Sûreté du Québec patrolman to arrive at the scene of the accident involving Martin Carpentier and his daughters said that he quickly requested an investigator be called to the scene, after which he was told, “We’re considering it.”
Agent Vincent Poirier from the Lotbinière post arrived at the scene of the accident while highway 20 was still dusty. A first lap of the vehicle reveals that an airbag deploys, that the windows explode, but most importantly that the occupants are missing.
The hypothesis of an ejection is put forward, but also that of a drunk driver who fled the scene or that of a stolen vehicle are addressed by the police officer. The police officer quickly contacted the Center for Monitoring and Operational Control (CVCO) to inquire about the possibility of using an investigator.
“We are requesting the assistance of an investigator because it is possible that this will lead to possible hit-and-run criminal charges,” said Agent Poirier.
However, the response coming from the CVCO is not the one expected.
“We’re thinking about it,” the coordination replied to the agent.
Several command changes
In addition, the management of the file changed hands several times in the first few hours.
From Agent Poirier upon his arrival at the scene, responsibility was then transferred to another agent and then to Sergeant Éric Vézina around 11pm. At 1:35 a.m. he then hands over command to Captain Jean-François Ouellet. An investigator was finally dispatched to the scene at 3 a.m., almost six hours after the accident.
“There were several leaders at the start and I have to clarify that,” coroner Malouin pointed out.
Different versions of the dangerousness of Martin Carpentier
Agent Vincent Poirier said the first witnesses contacted after the accident had different versions of Martin Carpentier’s level of dangerousness.
When it turns out during his first conversation with Norah and Romy’s mother that her father is loving and harmless to the little girls, the new partner offers the mother a different light.
“There was a discussion about the concept of kidnapping in relation to children. Mr. Pelletier mentions the Amber alert at this point,” the patrolman explained, noting that the new spouse speaks of fears of losing custody and losing weight.
And then there’s a colleague of Martin Carpentier’s who shows up and says yes Carpentier seemed depressed but he would never hurt his daughters.
“He’s coming to soften things up a bit,” the policeman added, confident that he went to bed the next morning and still didn’t understand what had happened.
“Back then the accident is a 1000 piece jigsaw puzzle and I only have 10 pieces and I don’t know where they go.”
Views on the highway from witnesses to the crash
Two civilian witnesses told coroner Luc Malouin Tuesday they saw Martin Carpentier, Norah and Romy flee the scene of the accident on Highway 20 on the evening of July 8, 2020.
Driving west, Louise Dubois saw headlights in the distance crossing the median, followed by a “dust elevator”. She brakes cautiously and sees what we now know to be Martin Carpentier’s car in disrepair in her lane. As she slowly drives past the vehicle, she notices two people moving away from the scene of the accident.
“There was a person walking toward the median and forward, a gentleman with a child in his arms,” the woman said.
Despite the twilight in the sky at the end of the July evening, the witness still distinguished important details. The person behind it was “a frail young girl with her hair tied back and a cap”.
“It looks like she has pain in one leg, like she’s limping.”
And before that a man. “He was walking with a child in his arms,” said Ms Dubois, who continued on her way when she saw other vehicles being stopped to help. “I had two children in the car with me.”
Next in a field
Another witness, who arrived moments later, said he saw “two people running in the field” on the other side of the freeway.
“They had crossed the median, crossed the 20 and were in the field. It appeared to me to be a man and the other looked like a woman, but I saw it quickly,” said André Couture, who contacted police the next day upon seeing media coverage of the case. .
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