WARNING: This article contains distressing details.
The shock is still palpable in a Laval, Que., community, where residents are reeling after a transit driver crashed a bus into a daycare Wednesday, killing two children and injuring six others.
The fatal crash left parents scrambling — and hoping — to find their kids shortly after they dropped them off at the Garderie Éducative de Sainte-Rose in the Sainte-Rose neighbourhood on Terrasse Dufferin.
Two children who were rushed to Sainte-Justine Hospital in Montreal following the crash have been discharged, the hospital confirmed early Thursday morning, while two others still hospitalized are in stable condition. The Cité-de-la-Santé Hospital in Laval said Wednesday that the injuries of 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 mom and his first question was, ‘Why did he do it?'” Courtois said.
It’s a question authorities still don’t have an answer to.
Police say Pierre Ny St-Amand, 51, a driver with the Société de transport de Laval (STL), crashed the bus into the daycare around 8:30 a.m. Wednesday.
Witnesses say St-Amand was acting delirious after exiting the bus, tearing off his clothes and screaming as several people restrained him on the ground before police arrived.
He was arrested at the scene and is facing nine charges, including two counts of first-degree murder.
On Wednesday afternoon, he appeared in court virtually while lying in a hospital bed. His next court appearance is scheduled for Feb. 17.
‘I’m in so much pain’
Charbel Fares had just dropped his children off at an elementary school down the street from the daycare when his neighbour said “something just happened near the school.”
“Of course when you hear about something, I go to the school directly to see my children. It’s a normal reaction. Your muscles and all your body they…you cannot explain,” he said.
Like many others, he said it’s still been difficult to process what happened.
Mireille Girard came to the scene with her daughter to lay flowers and a stuffed animal Thursday morning. She lives in the neighbourhood and used to work at a different daycare, so she said the news hit home.
“I was afraid it would be my daycare at first, before the information came in. But … how can I … I don’t even have words. Just realizing it. To be here and to realize it is even more messed up … I’m in so much pain,” she said.
An emotional Mathieu Bouchard said he came out Thursday to lay a bouquet of flowers near the daycare as a show of support for the parents who lost their children.
“They didn’t ask for that,” he said. “I literally cried. Every time things like that happen, it touches my heart.”
As a father of two young kids who go to another daycare in Laval, Bouchard said it’s difficult to imagine what the victims’ parents are going through.
“It could’ve happened to my kid,” he said.
Laval police said a command post with staff who can offer psychological support was set up Thursday near the scene of the incident.
Daybreak Montreal10:29How the Sainte-Rose neighbourhood is coping with tragedy and grief
Premier invites those affected by tragedy to seek help
Premier François Legault visited the scene in Sainte-Rose Thursday afternoon, laying a bouquet of flowers atop a makeshift memorial outside the daycare and stopping to speak with parents of children at the daycare and staff.
He also stopped to thank several first responders for their quick actions Wednesday.
Legault was accompanied by his wife, Isabelle Brais, as well as opposition party leaders, including interim Liberal Leader Marc Tanguay, Québec Solidaire co-spokesperson Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois and Parti Québécois Leader Paul St-Pierre Plamondon. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Quebec lieutenant, Pablo Rodriguez, was also present.
Speaking to reporters from the scene, Legault invited those affected by the tragedy to ask for help if they need it in the wake of the tragedy.
“There is nothing harder than losing a child. […] How do we go on living? It’s as serious as that,” he said.
“Accept the psychological help that is being offered. It’s important and it’s necessary for many people.”
Parents and others came together throughout Wednesday and Thursday to try to make sense of the situation.
People wanting to make their way to the daycare to honour the victims and show support to staff were unable to due to the security perimeter erected around the scene of the crash 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 Sainte-Rose-de-Lima church in the neighbourhood, where people expressed feelings of confusion, heartache and rage.
The city of Laval held a vigil at the church Thursday at 6:30 p.m. Prime Minister Trudeau attended, laying a bouquet of white flowers at the makeshift memorial and offering his condolences to the families affected by the tragedy.
The flag at the National Assembly is flying at half-mast. On Wednesday, the lights at Montreal’s city hall, the Olympic stadium and the CN Tower in Toronto were turned off in memory of the two young victims.