The 93-year-old had evacuated the building, located on Sherbrooke Street East near Assomption Boulevard in the city’s east end, after hearing the fire alarm go off around 4:15 a.m. Sunday.
“The victim, who seems to have hearing problems, would have heard the fire alarm, but it seems she was not able to understand the audio message saying her building was not part of the evacuation,” Montreal police spokesperson Caroline Chèvrefils told Global News.
“She thought she had to evacuate and she went outside by herself in the backyard of the building.”
Chèvrefils explained that when she tried to go back into the building, the doors were locked. She eventually died of hypothermia.
Officers, who received the 911 call at around 11:45 a.m., arrived on the scene and found her lying in the snow.
Quebec Premier François Legault tweeted his condolences to Duceppe and his family.
“Isabelle and I are shocked by the death of Mrs. Rowley, Gilles Duceppe’s mother,” Legault wrote.
“I offer all my sympathy to Gilles, as well as to his brothers and sisters and the whole family in this moment of great sadness.”
Bloc Québécois Leader Yves-François Blanchet also sent condolences, saying “The Duceppe family is our family…we are with you during this painful time.”
Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante also sent her condolences to Duceppe’s family.
Quebec Minister for Seniors Marguerite Blais described Rowley Hotte’s death as a tragedy.
“I offer my deepest condolences to the family,” she said at a press conference on Monday.
Blais said she had requested an investigation into what happened. The coroner’s department is also looking into the circumstances surrounding her death.
WATCH: Marguerite Blais expresses sympathy for Gilles Duceppe and family
Blais the Lux seniors’ residence where Rowley Hotte lived had its certification renewed last April and met all the required standards, including the number of staff at night.
The province is waiting to see what comes from the coroner’s findings, she added.
“We are waiting for the coroner (who) will do his report,” she said. “After his report, we will be able to know what we have to change if we have to change something.”
WATCH: Marguerite Blais says government would not commit to any changes to certification of seniors’ residences until a coroner’s report is released
The residence issued a statement late Monday. It said Rowley Hotte was wearing winter clothing when she went outside. Its security cameras show she fainted a while after having exited.
“We are sincerely sorry for Mrs. Rowley Hotte’s family and loved ones,” the statement said. “The safety and well-being of our residents has always been and remains a priority for Lux Residences.”
— With files from Global’s Kalina Laframboise and The Canadian Press
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