Two children were killed when a bus rammed into a day care center near Montreal on Wednesday, with the driver arrested on suspicion of homicide over what police believe was a deliberate act.
One child died on the scene and another in an ambulance, Canadian authorities said, after several children were trapped under the vehicle when it slammed into the building in the suburb of Laval at around 8:30 am (1330 GMT).
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“We think that this is deliberate, but we don’t know the motive,” local police chief Pierre Brochet told AFP, adding that the 51-year-old man was being questioned and had no prior criminal record.
Six other children transported to hospital “are out of danger,” said Laval police spokeswoman Erika Landry.
She said the driver was arrested for “homicide and dangerous driving,” but had not yet been charged.
“I helped subdue the driver who got off the bus,” one father told Radio Canada, crying. His wife said the man was “half undressed” and both saw him “ram deliberately into the day care.”
The bus appeared to have smashed into a side of the building which is near a parking lot away from the nearest road. Part of the roof collapsed on top of the front of the vehicle.
“I’m devastated. We all are,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said.
“(I) can’t imagine what the families are going through. But obviously, if there’s anything the federal government can do, (it) will be there.”
No adults were hurt in the collision.
A large area was cordoned off around the building and a helicopter passed overhead at regular intervals, according to an AFP journalist on the scene.
One parent, holding her own child, said it was the center’s class of oldest children that was hit.
“It’s a shock, a lot of parents are panicking because they can’t get in, and their children are in there,” she added.
– ‘Terrible tragedy’ –
Victims were taken to Sainte-Justine hospital, which was set to have a press conference later in the day.
“What a terrible tragedy this morning in Laval,” Quebec Premier Francois Legault tweeted.
“There is nothing worse than being afraid for your child. I am thinking of the children, the parents and the employees,” he added.
“As a father, I am shaken,” he said later at a press conference. “I can understand the anguish that the parents are going through.”
Day care worker Mona Gilot, 54, told AFP she was “angry.”
“My head is spinning, it’s really difficult for me to speak,” she said.
After the crash, parents rushed up the snow-covered sidewalk to collect their children from the center, which usually has about 80 or 85 children attending, while a nearby school was transformed into a crisis headquarters.
“I am shocked by this news. The investigation continues to understand this tragic series of events,” tweeted Stephane Boyer, the mayor of Laval.
“All of my support to the parents at these difficult moments,” he added, saying he was going to the scene to meet with the families.
“Laval is wholeheartedly with you and will be there for you.”