ST. CASIMIR, Quebec - Five followers of the Order of the Solar Temple, a cult that says death enables people to transport themselves to other planets, died together in a fiery mass suicide.
The bodies of two men and three women were found in a burned-out home in this town 50 miles southwest of Quebec City. Investigators said the victims had used propane tanks and gasoline containers to set fire to the wood-paneled house.
The mass suicide led authorities in Switzerland to contact cult followers there in case further ritual deaths were being planned. Over the past 2 1/2 years, murder-suicides by followers of the Order of the Solar Temple have resulted in 74 deaths in Europe and Canada.
Police hope to learn more about the suicide from the children of two victims. The three, boys 13 and 16 and a 14-year-old girl, were found unconscious in a nearby shed after apparently being given medication or drugs by their parents, police said.
Unlike previous cult suicides, when the adult cult members killed the children before killing themselves, the children were given a choice and decided not to join their parents on their "trip," police spokesman Pierre Robichaud said today.
Robichaud told CTV's Canada AM that the teenagers were unconscious, so they would not have witnessed the suicides.
The children were placed in the care of social workers and questioned by police Sunday.
The Order of the Solar Temple is rooted in centuries-old secret
Roman Catholic societies. Its disciples believe that death is an illusion and life continues after Earth on other planets.
The victims left behind letters and other papers indicating they were planning a "departure," police Lt. Alain Quirion said.
In 1994, Swiss authorities found the bodies of 48 people in a farmhouse and three chalets, all consumed by fire. Five more bodies were found the same year in a burned house belonging to a cult leader in Morin-Heights, Quebec.
In 1995, 16 cult members were found dead in a burned house outside Grenoble in the French Alps.