Laval, Que. grieving congregation still in shock after fatal daycare bus crash
WARNING: This article contains disturbing details.
The shock is still being felt in a community in Laval, Que., where residents are reeling after a transit driver drove a bus into a daycare on Wednesday, killing two children and injuring six others.
The fatal accident left parents scrambling – and hoping – to locate their children shortly after dropping them off at the Garderie Éducative de Sainte-Rose in the Sainte-Rose neighborhood on the Terrasse Dufferin.
Two children who were taken to Montreal’s Sainte-Justine Hospital after the accident have been discharged, the hospital confirmed early Thursday morning, while two others who remain hospitalized are in stable condition. The Cité-de-la-Santé hospital in Laval said on Wednesday that the injuries to two children in its care were not considered life-threatening.
Sébastien Courtois, the father of a four-and-a-half-year-old boy who was taken to hospital, said his wife arrived at the scene and saw their son lying on a table.
“He was conscious and he recognized his mother and his first question was, ‘Why did he do that?'” Courtois said.
A question to which the authorities still have no answer.
Police say Pierre Ny St-Amand, 51, was a driver with Société de transport de Laval (STL), crashed into the daycare center on a bus around 8:30 a.m. on Wednesday.
Witnesses say St-Amand acted delirious after getting off the bus, tore his clothes off and screamed as several people held him to the ground before police arrived.
He was arrested at the scene and faces nine charges, including two counts of first-degree murder.
He appeared in court practically lying in a hospital bed on Wednesday afternoon. His next court appearance is scheduled for February 17.
“I’m in so much pain”
Charbel Fares had just dropped off his children at a primary school near the daycare when his neighbor said: “Something just happened near the school.”
“Of course, if you hear about anything, I’ll go straight to the school to see my kids. It’s a normal reaction. Your muscles and your whole body, they… you can’t explain it,” he said.
Like many others, he said it was still difficult to process what had happened.
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Mireille Girard came to the scene with her daughter to lay flowers and a stuffed animal on Thursday morning. She lives in the neighborhood and used to work at another daycare, so she said the news got through to her home.
“I was scared at first it would be my daycare before the information came in. But… how can I… I don’t even have words. I just notice. To be here and realize it’s even worse… I’m in so much pain,” she said.
An emotional Mathieu Bouchard said he came out on Thursday to lay a bouquet near the daycare center as a sign of support for the parents who have lost their children.
“They didn’t ask for that,” he said. “I literally cried. Every time something like this happens, it touches my heart.”
As a father of two young children who go to a different daycare center in Laval, Bouchard said it was hard to imagine what the victims’ parents were going through.
“It could have happened to my kid,” he said.
Laval Police said a command post was set up near the scene on Thursday with staff who can offer psychological support.
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Premier invites those affected by tragedy to seek help
Premier François Legault visited the scene in Sainte-Rose on Thursday afternoon, placing a bouquet of flowers at a makeshift memorial outside the daycare and stopping to speak to parents of children in the daycare and staff.
He also stopped to thank several first responders for their quick action on Wednesday.
Legault was accompanied by his wife, Isabelle Brais, and leaders of opposition parties, including interim Liberal leader Marc Tanguay, Québec Solidaire co-speaker Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois, and Parti Québécois leader Paul St-Pierre Plamondon. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s lieutenant of Quebec, Pablo Rodriguez, was also present.
Speaking to reporters at the scene, Legault urged those affected by the tragedy to ask for help if they need it after the tragedy.
“Nothing is harder than losing a child. […] How do we live on? It’s so serious,” he said.
“Accept psychological help that is offered. It is important and necessary for many people.”
Parents and others gathered throughout Wednesday and Thursday to try to understand the situation.
People who wanted to make their way to the daycare to honor the victims and show their support to staff were unable to do so due to the security perimeter set up around the accident site on Wednesday.
Instead, a police cruiser blocking access to the site was showered with flowers, cards and stuffed animals.
There was also an impromptu candlelight vigil at the nearby Sainte-Rose-de-Lima church, with people expressing feelings of confusion, heartache and anger.
The city of Laval held a vigil at the church at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, attended by Prime Minister Trudeau, laid a bouquet of white flowers at the makeshift memorial and offered condolences to the families affected by the tragedy.
The flag of the National Assembly flies at half-mast. On Wednesday, lights were turned off at Montreal City Hall, the Olympic Stadium and the CN Tower in Toronto in memory of the two young victims.
CLOCK | Drone footage of where the bus hit: