The winter can be a beautiful time of year with fresh snowfalls, twinkling icicles, frozen lakes. It can be a frustrating time of year, with shoveling driveways, brushing off cars, and getting cold and wet whenever you're out. While people will debate about whether winter is good or bad, we often lose sight of another truth: winter can be dangerous.
The homeless, children or seniors are at risk when the temperature plummets. This year has been a cold one, with blowing winds and lots of snowfall, that makes it even more dangerous for the most vulnerable members of our society.
Seniors can be especially at risk. Not only do weaker immune systems make them susceptible to illnesses that are abundant this time of year, but the cold itself can be a danger. Some seniors are prone to wandering off, unmindful of the potentially fatal weather.
A retirement or seniors' home should be one of the safest places for a senior to be, but one is now facing scrutiny after a 93-year-old froze to death after being locked out of her complex.
Hélène Rowley Hotte was living at the Lux Gouverneur seniors’ residence in east-end Montreal, Quebec, Canada. Early Sunday morning a fire alarm sounded and Hotte left her residence.
An audio recording gave evacuation instructions. Hotte's unit wasn't part of the evacuation, however she had hearing problems and likely wasn't able to understand the instructions.
Shortly after 4:15 a.m. she left through a backdoor, which locked as it closed behind her. She was unable to get back inside.
Montreal is currently in a cold spell, temperatures were well below 0 degrees Fahrenheit.
She wasn't found until shortly before noon on Sunday, she had frozen to death waiting for the doors to unlock.
Hotte was the mother of Gilles Duceppe, one of Canada's most well-known politicians. He led one of Canada's major national parties from 1997 to 2011. He retired after a poor showing in that year's election.
Leaders from around Canada offered their condolences after such a tragic turn of events.
"Isabelle and I are shattered by the death of Mrs. Rowley, Gilles Duceppe’s mother,” Francois Legault, Quebec's premier wrote. “I offer all my sympathy to Gilles, his brothers and sisters, and to the whole family in this moment of great sadness.”
Police have determined that no criminal act took place and have transferred their investigation over to the official coroner's office.
Duceppe hasn't spoken publicly about his loss and the seniors' home also has yet to release a statement.