A city bus crashed into a daycare in Laval, Quebec, on Wednesday morning, killing two children and injuring six others. Witnesses said the driver seemed delirious and removed his clothing, screaming.
The driver has been charged with reckless driving and homicide, Laval police spokesperson Erika Landry told reporters at a briefing. The lives of the six children who were taken to hospital are out of danger, she said, and one adult was also transported to hospital “in shock.”
The driver is 51 years old and an employee of the city’s transit authority, Société de transport de Laval. Landry said the circumstances are “all part of the investigation. I cannot give any information right now.”
Hamdi Benchaabane, a local resident, told reporters that he and three others subdued the driver. “He was yelling, he didn’t stop yelling,” Benchaabane said. “The first thing he did was take off all his clothes after opening the bus door …. He was just yelling, there were no words coming out of his mouth.”
He said the driver “was in a different world.”
Benchaabane helped pull one child from the daycare and tried to help another before firefighters took over, saying pieces of the roof were at risk of falling. “It was a nightmare, I can’t believe it,” Benchaabane said. “It was horrible.”
Mario Sirois was among the first on the scene, he told The Canadian Press. “It can’t be an accident,” Sirois said. “There were no signs of skid marks. It was deliberate. He went directly into the daycare.”
The location of the daycare, Garderie Éducative Ste-Rose, is at the end of a cul de sac and the driver would have had to veer off the road, head down a driveway and through a parking lot about a dozen spaces long to hit it. He also hit it with such force that most of the front half of the bus was embedded in the building.
Montreal’s Sainte-Justine children’s hospital received some of the children, two boys and two girls. “The patients are in stable condition. The hospital’s teams are doing their utmost to provide the best care to the patients who need it, but also to support the families, to whom we offer psychosocial services in this tragic situation,” a Sainte-Justine spokesperson told The Epoch Times via text message.
Ginette Lamoureux who lives close by told the Montreal Gazette, “Children were screaming and crying. It was awful. It’s horrible.” She said, “I couldn’t stay there, it was too difficult.”
A shocked mother who was just about to drop her child at the centre as the bus hit told Le Journal de Montreal in French, “The bus passed behind me really fast.” She said it was “a question of two to three minutes” and her child would have been in there.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau responded to the crash from Ottawa: “Our thoughts are with families in Laval who are living incredibly difficult moments … we hope that everyone will be OK.”
Quebec Premier François Legault said, “We are going to give the parents all the help we can, and as a father, I am shaken.”
Société de transport de Laval did not reply to request for comment as of publication.
The Canadian Press contributed to this report.