A state of 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 more. 

The fatal crash left parents scrambling 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.

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 bus driver with the Société de transport de Laval (STL), crashed the Laval city 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.”

He immediately ran back to check that his kids were OK. 

“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.

A woman leans down and places a candle among others on the ground in front of a church.
An impromptu candlelight vigil took place Wednesday night at the Sainte-Rose-de-Lima church. (Christine Muschi/Reuters)

Another woman, Mireille Girard, came to the scene with her daughter to lay flowers and a stuffed animal. 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. 

Vigils held as community mourns

Throughout the day and into the evening Wednesday, neighbours, parents and others came together to try to make sense of the situation.

People flocked to the security perimeter erected around the scene to lay flowers, cards and stuffed animals on a police cruiser to honour the victims of the crash and to show support for the daycare staff. 

A similar event took place at the Sainte-Rose-de-Lima church during an impromptu candlelight vigil Wednesday night, where people expressed feelings of rage, confusion and heartache. 

Premier François Legault will visit the scene of the tragedy Thursday morning in the company of other party leaders, the minister responsible for the Laval region, Christopher Skeete, the mayor of Laval, Stéphane Boyer, and the director of the Laval Police Department, Pierre Brochet.

The flags will be lowered at the National Assembly Thursday. 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 Wednesday. 

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