Old Montreal fire: the stories of seven victims

All seven victims of the deadly Old Montreal fire on March 16 have officially been identified, with police now shifting the focus of their investigation to what caused the blaze.

“All the hypotheses are being analyzed, all the elements are being closely scrutinized,” said Montreal police Insp. David Shane on Tuesday, when the last two victims of the fire were identified.

In total, there were 22 people inside the building when the fire broke out, six escaped unharmed and nine were treated for injuries. He said firefighters rescued six people with ladders, adding that one person jumped from a second-story window.

Those killed in the fire included a long-term resident of the heritage building as well as people from Quebec, Ontario, and the U.S., who had booked accommodation on short-term rental sites such as Airbnb, which are illegal to use in the part of Montreal where the building is located. The tragedy prompted the short-term rental platform to announce last week that it would pull listings in Quebec that don’t have a permit from the provincial government.

Here are the stories of the seven people who tragically lost their lives.

Charlie Lacroix

Charlie Lacroix – left -with her second cousin Laurence Anne Bettez. (Credit: Laurence Anne Bettez/provided)

Charlie Lacroix, 18, was visiting Montreal from the suburb of Terrebonne, and was one of those who had rented accommodation in the building on a short-term rental site. Her father has said she was in an apartment with a friend and called 911 twice as the fire spread through the building, unable to escape because the unit had no window.

“We’re talking a lot about her and how she was, how bubbly she was and how much she had to offer,” said Lacroix’s second cousin Laurence Anne Bettez in an interview with CityNews. “She was very outgoing. She was funny.”

Speaking to media her father had said his daughter was someone who “had everything in front of her.”

“This happened, there’s nothing we can do, now do everything you freaking can to avoid another story like that,” he said.

Walid Belkahla

Walid Belkahla, a victim of the Old Montreal fire. (Credit: Facebook)


Walid Belkahla is another 18-year-old who lost his life in the fatal fire. His loved ones gathered at the Mosquée Al-Ansar in Laval on Wednesday to pay their respects to the teen. He was among the last victims to be identified.

Facebook groups of Algerians in Montreal shared the information online as community members shared prayers and condolences for his loved ones.

An Wu

Dr. An Wu, a victim of the Old Montreal fire. (Credit: Yukun Zeng/provided)

Dr. An Wu was a 31-year-old neuroscientist from San Diego, who came to Montreal for a conference. At the site of the tragedy, her boy friend Yukun Zeng, who flew in from the U.S., said An was in the city for a few extra days after the conference. He said she loved Montreal.

“When I’m on site, I can totally visualize what’s really happening, it’s so heartbreaking,” he said. https://montreal.citynews.ca/2023/03/21/american-neuroscientist-old-montreal-fire/

She was described by colleagues at UC San Diego as creative, fearless, and forward thinking, with a constant desire to learn. Calling her a tremendous scientist, beloved and loyal friend.

Her parents are based in China.

Dania Zafar

Dania Zafar, a victim of the Old Montreal fire. (Credit: Zafar Mahmood/provided)

Dania Zafar, 31, was living in Toronto and in Montreal for a short visit with her long-time friend, Saniya Khan, another victim.

Zafar Mahmood, from Lahore, Pakistan, described his cherished daughter Dania as a special person.

“The way she smiled, the way she talks gently, slowly, there was a melody in her voice,” he said in an interview with CityNews.

“Each and every person, whenever they met her, they all remember her. She was so lovely. She was so beautiful. She’s so humble, all those things make us miss her so much,” he added.

Zafar received her master’s from Kingston University in London, England. She was self-employed and worked in publishing in Toronto and was in the process of getting her Canadian citizenship.

Saniya Khan

Saniya Khan a victim of the Old Montreal fire. (Credit: Mazhar Khan/provided)

Saniya Khan, 32, was visiting Montreal from Detroit with Dania Zafar, her childhood friend from Pakistan. They were both scheduled to return to Toronto the day of the fire.

Saniya’s father, Mazhar Khan, described his daughter — a master’s student in public health at Wayne State University in Detroit — as selfless.

“She was a very dedicated person towards her family. She was the eldest of my four children. She would be there for all others, whether it’s advice or other contributions, it’s time or effort. She will always be there,” said Khan.

In an interview with CityNews he said it’s been difficult living in a world without his firstborn.

“Every corner of my house reminds me of her. When I look at her shoes and I look at her dresses.”

Nathan Sears

Nathan Sears

Nathan Sears, a victim of the Old Montreal fire. Credit: Facebook

Nathan Sears, 35, was also visiting Montreal from Toronto. He was a Cadieux-Léger Fellow at Global Affairs Canada, a PhD student in Political Science at the University of Toronto, and previously he studied at Carleton University. Carleton University shared a condolence letter online. In it Teddy Y. Samy, the Director and Professor at the Norman Paterson School of International Affairs, describes Sears as “an outstanding member of our community and a shining example of what it means to be a successful student.”

Adding “his contributions will always be appreciated and never forgotten.”

Camille Maheux

Old Montreal fire victim Camille Maheux

Camille Maheux, a victim of the Old Montreal fire. (Credit: Petunia Alves/provided)

Camille Maheux, 76, was the first victim who was identified in the Old Montreal fire. She was a retired photographer who had been living in the building for over 30 years.

“A lot of people have little pieces of Camille, but the bulk of her work went with the fire,” said Suzanne Girard, a friend of Camille Maheux.

The Beauce region native created a legacy of art, with her photos in Canada’s National Gallery and several short films. Though retired, she never really stopped capturing photos and creating social documentaries.

“She was a world woman, very extrovert, very out there, very aware of what her friends like, always bringing things, even if you didn’t want it,” said Girard.

Renata Falzoni, another one of Maheux’s friends saying, “she transformed, the way I see my life today.”

– With files from the Canadian Press and Alyssia Rubertucci

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