Quebec new-media entrepreneur and philanthropist Daniel Langlois has been found dead in Dominica, along with his partner Dominique Marchand.
The couple had been missing for a few days. Their bodies were found in a burnt-out car according to Dominica News Online, and local sources contacted by Radio-Canada, including the resort they both managed.
Local authorities are questioning four people of interest in relation to the deaths, including Jonathan Lehrer, owner of Bois Collette Inc., according to Radio-Canada. In 2018, Langlois took Lehrer to court because of a dispute concerning the philanthropist using the Morne Rouge Public Road, which passes through Lehrer's estate.
"The entire community on the island is in mourning following a devastating incident on Thursday, Nov. 30," said a spokesperson for the Coulibri Ridge resort in a statement to Radio-Canada.
Simon Walsh, the project manager at Resilient Dominica — a non-profit affiliated to the Daniel Langlois Foundation — also confirmed the reports in an email sent to Radio-Canada
"We have lost the incredible team of Daniel and Dominique," he said. "I am sorry to have to bear this horrific news."
Jacqueline Dupigny, Belgium's honorary consul in Dominica, says she last saw the couple in early November by a river. She says her last memory with the couple, with whom she felt she shared a bond due to her mother being French-Canadian, was filled with laughter and smiles.
"It always was lovely seeing Daniel and Dominique," she told Radio-Canada. "Dominique was probably somebody who was probably more open in the public and she had such a warm and friendly personality her smile just lit up a room."
She says the community has been grieving the loss.
"There's a mixture of emotions ranging from anger to distress because this couple did so much to elevate and enhance Dominica and Dominicans," she says.
This year, Langlois was given a Meritorious Service Award for his contribution to Dominica's sustainable development during a ceremony marking the country's day of independence in November.
There will be a candlelit vigil by kayak later this week to commemorate the couple, according to Walsh.
Global Affairs Canada said in a statement to CBC News that it's aware of the death of two Canadians in Dominica and that it's also in touch with local authorities to obtain more information.
A pioneer in animation
Langlois founded the firm Softimage which produced 3D animation software that was used in movies such as Jurassic Park.
Loudon Owen remembers when Langlois first came to him in Toronto with his vision for Softimage looking for investments to grow the business. Owen says that at the time, Langlois had a "Bill Gates dream."
"Gates wanted to put a computer on every desk; Daniel wanted to put 3D animation into every computer," he said. "And he wanted everybody in the world to do 3D animation because he'd fallen in love with it and he wanted to share that."
Owen ended up following Langlois to Montreal where the company became extremely successful.
Langlois eventually sold Softimage to Microsoft for $200 million in 1994, with Owen by his side.
Owen suspects Langlois's endeavours resulted in the creation of at least 10,000 jobs in Montreal all while transforming the film industry along the way.
"Virtually any animation you see anywhere — on a computer screen, in a movie, in any context — ultimately derives from what was done at Softimage."
Owen says that seeing Langlois turn his ideas into reality while thinking 10 years ahead was "incredible."
Langlois was also behind the creation of the Ex-Centris cinema in Montreal in 1999.
He and Marchand first came to the Caribbean island in 1997 and began working on the luxury off-the-grid Coulibri Ridge eco-resort. Two decades later, it was opened to the public in October 2022.