2 children dead, driver charged after bus crashes into daycare in Laval, Que.

Parents and their children are loaded onto a warming bus as they wait for news after a bus crashed into a daycare centre in Laval, Que., Wednesday, February 8, 2023. CBC has blurred the faces of children to protect their identities.  (Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press - image credit)
Parents and their children are loaded onto a warming bus as they wait for news after a bus crashed into a daycare centre in Laval, Que., Wednesday, February 8, 2023. CBC has blurred the faces of children to protect their identities. (Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press - image credit)

WARNING: This article contains distressing details.

A 51-year-old man drove a city bus into a daycare in Laval, Que., on Wednesday morning, killing two children and injuring six more.

Pierre Ny St-Amand, a bus driver with the Société de transport de Laval (STL), was arrested at the scene.

He has been charged with several crimes, including two counts of first-degree murder, attempted murder, aggravated assault and assault with a weapon or causing bodily harm.

Around 8:30 a.m., the Laval city bus crashed into the Garderie Éducative de Sainte-Rose in the Sainte-Rose neighbourhood on Terrasse Dufferin. There is a bus stop for the 151 line on the roundabout near the daycare.

A neighbour who witnessed the crash said he and a group of parents tried to rescue children pinned under the bus and managed to subdue the driver, who was acting erratically.

Laval police spokesperson Erika Landry said one child died at the scene. Seven children were rushed to hospital with injuries and one died in hospital. One adult was also taken to hospital to be treated for shock.

Dr. Marc Girard, the director of professional services at Sainte-Justine Hospital, said at an afternoon news conference that the hospital admitted four victims, all preschool-age children, two boys and two girls.

The children were conscious when they arrived at the hospital, but were suffering from various traumatic injuries, Girard said. They are now recovering and in stable condition, he said.

Sébastien Rocheleau, director of medical services at the Laval regional health authority, said the Cité-de-la-Santé Hospital received three patients from the daycare. One child died despite resuscitation efforts. The other two are under observation and their injuries are not considered life-threatening.

Suspect makes court appearance via video link

On Wednesday afternoon, the suspect appeared in court virtually while lying in a hospital bed. The proceedings were delayed several times, as the judge wondered if St-Amand was fit to appear in court, but the situation was eventually sorted out and the appearance went ahead as planned.

St-Amand is scheduled to be in court in person on Feb. 17.

WATCH | Neighbour explains how fight with suspect unfolded:

Driver was in 'another world,' resident says

Hamdi Ben Chaabane, who lives in the neighbourhood and was one of the first on the scene, said the bus must have been travelling 30 or 40 km/h when it struck the daycare.

"From what I saw, it wasn't an accident," he said.

After the bus struck the daycare, the driver emerged and began acting erratically.

"He opened the door. He took off all his clothes. He was totally naked," Ben Chaabane said. "We don't know why he did that. We dove on him. We tried to subdue him."

He described the driver as being "in another world."

"It was a nightmare. It's horrible. He didn't stop yelling. He wasn't saying words," Ben Chaabane said.

WATCH | Drone footage of where the bus struck:

The group worked to pry children out from underneath the bus, Ben Chaabane said. They reached one child, who was only lightly injured, but were unable to reach a girl who was stuck deeper beneath rubble, he said.

He said they continued trying to reach the trapped children until firefighters arrived and told them to leave because the roof of the daycare was caving in.

"It's chaos," said Julia Moreno, a mother whose child was in the daycare when the bus struck it. "There are injured children. It's terrible."

WATCH | Parents explain 'horrible' scene after crash :

Nathalie Vaillancourt, another mother whose child was inside, said the bus destroyed the front of the daycare. Both mothers said their children escaped physically unhurt.

Urgences-santé dispatched seven ambulances, a "tactical medical vehicle" — which responds to unusual medical situations, often alongside police — and a rapid response team.

"It's terrible what happened this morning in Laval," Premier François Legault told a group of reporters at the National Assembly. "All my thoughts are with the children, with the parents and with the employees."

Public Security Minister François Bonnardel, Family Minister Suzanne Roy and Christopher Skeete, the MNA for the Sainte-Rose riding, went to the scene to assess the situation.

Pierre Ny St-Amand/Facebook
Pierre Ny St-Amand/Facebook

Laval Mayor Stéphane Boyer said psychologists would be available for those affected.

According to Boyer, the bus driver had worked for the STL for 10 years but had no prior incidents on his record.

"There is a hypothesis that this was an intentional act but it will have to be confirmed by the investigation," Boyer said, adding that it was unclear if St-Amand had any connection to the daycare.

"It's a tragic act," Boyer said. "Obviously there are lots of parents right now wondering if their child was affected. I really want to be there for the families, show support."

The STL said in a statement it was devastated by the "tragedy in Laval."

"Our hearts go out to the families and employees affected by this tragedy," the statement said. "The Service de police de la Ville de Laval is currently conducting an investigation in which we are actively collaborating."

The bus drivers' union released a statement this afternoon saying its members are in shock and wholeheartedly support the parents and the daycare workers affected by this "tragic event." The union says it is co-operating with the authorities investigating the event.

Simon-Marc Charron/Radio-Canada
Simon-Marc Charron/Radio-Canada

The CISSS de Laval, the regional health board for that city, is inviting anyone who needs psychological help due to Wednesday's events to contact the province's telehealth services.

"Anyone who needs psychological help can dial 811, option two. They will be listened to and directed to the right resources," the health board tweeted.