Quebec artist, entrepreneur and philanthropist Daniel Langlois and his partner, Dominique Marchand, died in Dominica, the Caribbean island where they owned a luxury eco-hotel, a representative for the hotel said on Sunday.
A statement from the hotel and Mr. Langlois’s personal publicist announced “the tragic passing” of Mr. Langlois and Ms. Marchand in “a devastating incident” that happened on Nov. 30.
Mr. Langlois is best known as the founder of Softimage, the company that produced 3-D animation software that was used in major films such as Jurassic Park, Titanic, Lord of the Rings and the Harry Potter series. He sold the company to Microsoft in 1994 for US$130-million, and started his charitable foundation three years later to support artistic, scientific and technological research.
Local media outlet Dominica News Online reported that an investigation is under way into the discovery of bodies found in a burned vehicle, who are presumed to be Mr. Langlois and Ms. Marchand.
The two Canadians had been reported missing and the charred vehicle matches the description of the one they drove, the Dominica news site reported. It also said police have taken three people into custody for questioning.
Calls and messages sent to Dominica’s police service and the country’s government were not answered or returned on Sunday.
A spokesperson for Global Affairs Canada said the department “is aware of the presumed death of two Canadian citizens in Dominica,” in an e-mailed statement, without naming them. “Our hearts are with the families and loved ones of the Canadian citizens involved.”
The spokesperson said the department is monitoring the situation and engaging with local authorities but declined to provide further information because of privacy considerations.
Acclaimed filmmaker François Girard was a close friend of Mr. Langlois and visited him only a few weeks ago, touring Dominica in the same car that appears destroyed in a photograph published by local media. He contrasted that tragic image with the “harmonious paradise” he discovered on his visit.
“It’s impossible to reconcile because we’re talking about two truly good human beings – people who were generous and contributing to this world with amazing, positive actions,” Mr. Girard said. “The one thing that I learned and discovered is how close Daniel and Dominique were with that Dominican community – how much they were loved, and how much they loved them.”
Mr. Langlois was born in Quebec in 1957, and after he sold Softimage, he went on to found the performing arts centre and cinema Ex-Centris in Montreal, as well as 357c, an exclusive private club where a who’s who of business, culture and technology figures in Quebec used to rub shoulders.
More recently, Mr. Langlois and Ms. Marchand opened Coulibri Ridge, an off-grid luxury eco-hotel set atop a mountain ridge in southern Dominica that the couple spent two decades researching, designing and building.
“Daniel and Dominique were trailblazers in so many ways, most recently as founders and operators of Coulibri Ridge resort,” the hotel’s representatives said in a statement that promises to release more information “as it becomes available.”
Mr. Langlois was “a visionary artist” first and foremost and “an accidental businessman” who brought the cultural and business sectors closer together in Quebec, Mr. Girard said. And his understanding of how to use digital tools to create virtual worlds was ground-breaking.
“Before anyone else, he’s the one who showed the way, paved the way,” he said. “It really changed the way we make movies. … He was in a stratospheric space with very few others in this world.”
Mr. Langlois’s former business partner at Softimage, Pierre Nelis, said he felt “shock” after hearing the news. He described Mr. Langlois as “an artist” who built a successful software company, with difficulty, by surrounding himself with capable people. The result was “a software created for artists, by an artist,” Mr. Nelis said. “Basically, he created the creative software industry in Montreal and Canada.”
People used to ask Mr. Langlois why Quebec had become a hub for software development, Mr. Nelis said, and “his answer was: ‘Because it’s so cold here, there’s nothing to do, we create great software.’ ”
In addition to the eco-hotel he opened in Dominica, Mr. Langlois’s foundation created the REZDM Project, an environmental-resilience program that sought to help with the response to damage caused to the island by Hurricane Maria in 2017. One of its projects was to help rebuild an elementary school that was battered by the storm, allowing students to return in 2019.
And Mr. Girard said the project also built kitchens to feed the local community, bought tools to help rebuild, and restored a pier to help fishermen get back to work.
Simon Walsh, a project manager for REZDM and friend of Mr. Langlois and Ms. Marchand, said in a text message that he saw first-hand “the positive role [Mr. Langlois] had in the terrible times after Hurricane Maria.”
“They were good friends to me and well loved by the entire community,” Mr. Walsh said.