The Glengarry News

‘Too many questions’

Family refuses to accept boy’s death in 1970 was an accident


Lionel Carrière never believed the death of his son, Gilles, was an accident.

On the afternoon of June 11, 1970, the lifeless body of the 15-year-old grade 9 Char-Lan District High School student from Glen Roy was found in four feet of water at Charlotten­burgh Park. The official cause of death was drowning. Case closed.

“My father never accepted that,” says his son, Bernie, who was 12 when the eldest of the six Carrière children died.

As he began to get more details surroundin­g the tragedy, Lionel Carrière suspected his son had been the victim of foul play. He never got enough proof to warrant a re-opening of the case.

But for Mr. Carrière, there were still too many unanswered questions. For example, how could a healthy teenager, a strong swimmer, drown in only four feet of water? Why was it so difficult to get access to full witness statements? Why was the post-mortem examinatio­n so incomplete? Why did it take so long for an inquest to be held? If he drowned, why was there no water in Gilles’ lungs? Had he been killed before he was dumped into the water?

Adding even more pain to his grief was the knowledge that, shortly before his death, Gilles had been robbed. He had put aside money for a prom suit, and had left for school June 11 with $20 in his pocket. He spent $1.10 at a convenienc­e store. When his body was pulled from the water of the St. Lawrence River, there was only 90 cents in his pocket.

Classmates somehow got enough money to buy booze for a party, where they celebrated the end of the school year, while Mr. Carrière was identifyin­g his son at the morgue in Cornwall.

For the next 28 years, Lionel Carrière would try in vain to find out exactly happened. He died in 1998, still haunted by that horrible day.

“Justice,” replies Bernie Carrière when asked why he has taken up his father’s mission. “In honour of Dad, I will never give up.”

“Justice is black and white. Integrity was important to my father. My father never got justice,” says Mr. Carrière.

“Seeking justice after 46 years,” reads the heading of an advertisem­ent Mr. Carrière placed in the June 15 edition of The News. “New informatio­n has surfaced on my brother’s suspicious death.”

The “new informatio­n” is a connection the Carrières, while looking through a yearbook, made with a classmate of Gilles, a Massena, New York businessma­n who died in 2012. At the time he had been considered a suspect, but was never charged, in the 2011 drowning of his wife, whose body was found in three feet of water, with a canoe on top of her. That incident was ultimately ruled to be an accidental drowning.

The man from Massena was said to be a key figure in Gilles Carrière’s death. The two had fought over a girl shortly before Gilles died at the fateful swimming party attended by a group of grade 11 students.

A friend of Gilles recently told Mr. Carrière that he felt remorse because he was not there to protect Gilles from a school bully.

“We’re just trying to get answers. There are still people around who know what took place. We are hoping that something will trigger a memory and that they will come forward and tell the whole story,” says Bernie Carrière’s wife, Patricia.

“We just want to finally put this to rest,” adds Mr. Carrière.

Although they have been advised to let the case drop and move on, the Dalkeith residents are adamant. “We are not going to stop,” he vows.

They were heartened when they happened to meet a Sûreté du Québec investigat­or. “We started about Gilles and he said we should not give up. He had just solved a 33-year-old cold case. He told us that this was all a puzzle. You have to put it together a piece at a time,” related Mr. Carrière.

The search for answers has been frustratin­g, time-consuming and even intriguing.

To this day, the full file on the investigat­ion is not available. The Ontario Freedom of Informatio­n and Protection of Privacy Office has blocked access to several pages of evidence, and erased many sections of documents, which contain “highly sensitive personal” informatio­n.

Mrs. Carrière will appeal in an attempt to obtain copies of all the evidence.

She is curious why so many details have been so heavily redacted.

Individual privacy must be protected, she points out.

“But there are 27 pages missing from the file. This was an acci- dent. These are statements from teenagers who were there. Why can’t we see all of the informatio­n? It sounds so far-fetched, so incredible.”

The documents they have obtained show that while rescuers were attempting to revive Gilles, a “foamy yellowish liquid” poured from his mouth. That substance was never analyzed. Ontario Provincial Police investigat­ors said there was no sign of alcohol at the beach party.

The coroner, Dr. A.B. Peachey, “naturally assuming it was an accident,” saw no need for an autopsy and did not take a blood sample. In a November 19, 1970 letter, he took full responsibi­lity for the omission.

A 1971 inquest reinforced the original conclusion. Cause of death: asphyxiati­on by drowning.

Some witnesses still refuse to speak about that day. One changed her name.

As members of the Class of 1970 continue to age, and pass away, the Carrières fear the former classmates may take the whole truth with them to their graves.


To this day, Mr. Carrière hears rumours that “Gilles was dead before he hit the water,” that he was choked or poisoned.

“Obviously, it was very traumatic,” notes Mr. Carrière. “They were kids; it was a horrible thing. But we hope if they can help us close this, that they will come forward so we will know the whole story.”

 ??  ??
 ??  ?? TRAGEDY: Gilles Carrière died 46 years ago at the age of 15. His family keeps searching for details surroundin­g his death.
TRAGEDY: Gilles Carrière died 46 years ago at the age of 15. His family keeps searching for details surroundin­g his death.
 ??  ?? HEAVILY REDACTED: This is one of the many heavily redacted documents in the Carrière case file.
HEAVILY REDACTED: This is one of the many heavily redacted documents in the Carrière case file.

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