Maine authorities say they weren’t informed that a Quebec couple was missing until about an hour before the two were found dead in the wreckage of their car Tuesday, days after they had been expected home from a trip to New Hampshire.

Martin Poulin and Francine Dumas, both 58, had crossed into Maine at Jackman Station on July 28, en route to Hampton Beach, New Hampshire. They were expected to return last Thursday so they could attend a wedding in Quebec, but never arrived.

Relatives of Martin Poulin and Francine Dumas found them in their wrecked car, which had driven off Route 201 in West Forks Plantation and into some trees, which made the vehicle difficult to see from the road. Police say the couple apparently died soon after entering Maine on July 28.

The relatives had filed a missing persons report with Canadian authorities last week and been searching the route the couple had taken.

Dumas’ son, Renald Lacasse, told the Journal de Montreal on Wednesday that the couple had been expected home on July 30 for the wedding, which took place Saturday.

The Quebec Provincial Police put out a missing-persons report about Poulin and Dumas through the Maine Information and Analysis Center about 1 p.m. Tuesday – about an hour before the car wreckage was found. It was the first time authorities in Maine had heard the couple was missing, police said.

Lacasse told the Journal de Montreal that when the couple didn’t return for the wedding, the family started to look for them.

“Starting at that moment, they really began to wonder. ‘Why didn’t they go? When didn’t they let us know what was happening? Why is their cellphone shut off?’ Mr. Lacasse and Mrs. Dumas’ children asked themselves,” the Journal, one of the city’s French-language newspapers reported.

Poulin’s son and daughter and two others found the wreckage about 2 p.m. Tuesday.

“They were discovered by family members who were following the route that these folks would have taken on the way to Hampton Beach,” Somerset County Chief Deputy James Ross said. “They were the ones that found them. We’re assuming that this (crash) happened on July 28 when they crossed the border.”

The couple’s cellphones and credit cards had not been used after they entered the United States, according to the sheriff’s department.

“When you discover your parents dead in the bottom of a car, that’s (unusual) enough. We saw what we didn’t want to see,” Lacasse told the Montreal newspaper. “At least they didn’t appear to have suffered.”

Lacasse said Poulin and his mother had been married for just a month.

“Everything was going well,” he told the newspaper. “They were leaving for their first vacation together.”

‘A VERY HORRIFIC CRASH’

U.S. Route 201 is the main route from Quebec into Maine and points south. The two-lane road rises slightly near the scene of the accident, about 35 miles south of the border, but is mostly straight. The speed limit there is 55 mph.

Ross said there were skid marks on the road. But the investigation into what caused the crash could take two or three weeks, Sheriff Dale Lancaster said Wednesday. An autopsy will be performed on the bodies by the Office of Chief Medical Examiner to determine cause, time and manner of death.

“They could have swerved to miss a moose. They could have fallen asleep. … I don’t know if we’ll ever have that answer,” Ross said.

Lt. Carl Gottardi, of the Somerset County Sheriff’s Office, said Dumas was driving and Poulin was a passenger in the 2005 Nissan Altima. He said it appeared that Dumas lost control of the car and it went off the road and crashed into the trees, some of which fell and partially obscured the car from view, which may be why no one discovered the wreckage for a week.

“In that area right where the vehicle went off is a sign as you’re traveling south that warns people that it’s a high deer-hit area, but it’s also an area where we have a lot of moose collisions,” Gottardi said.

Gottardi would not speculate about whether Dumas and Poulin survived the initial crash and died later.

“All I can say is it was a very horrific crash. They went into several large trees, which caused a very, very extensive amount of damage to the vehicle; and the trauma I’m sure the people would have endured in that was pretty severe,” he said. “It was evident to me that the bodies had been there for a period of time.”

Lacasse was critical of Maine authorities for not searching for the couple sooner. But Lancaster, Ross, Gottardi and the investigating corporal said the sheriff’s office was not alerted to the missing couple until Tuesday.

Lacasse also said the families were not notified of the deaths before news of the crash was published on the Internet.

“We weren’t even at the customs station yet before it was on the news,” he said. “My family and his family found out on the Internet.”

Kennebec Journal/Morning Sentinel Copy Desk Chief Joseph Owen contributed to this report.