Residents of Amqui, Que., take back the streets for 1st time since truck mowed down pedestrians

Yolaine Voyer, a resident of Amqui, Que. stands steps away from a microbrewery where a deadly crash took place on Monday afternoon.  (Rachel Watts/CBC - image credit)
Yolaine Voyer, a resident of Amqui, Que. stands steps away from a microbrewery where a deadly crash took place on Monday afternoon. (Rachel Watts/CBC - image credit)

Wednesday marked the first time Yolaine Voyer returned to Saint-Benoît Boulevard in Amqui, Que., where two people were killed and nine others were injured on Monday.

A lifelong resident of the town on the Gaspé peninsula and an avid walker, she says she considered changing her route after a pickup truck driver slammed into a group of pedestrians two days ago in what police say was a deliberate act.

The tightly knit community is mourning the two men who died, Gérald Charest, 65, and Jean Lafrenière, 73, and hoping that the injured pull through.

"I am just lucky to not be one of the people who was trampled. It's just dreadful," said Voyer.

Rachel Watts/CBC
Rachel Watts/CBC

"On Monday afternoon everyone was calling me, (including) my family who lives out of town saying 'I hope you weren't there,' because they know I love to walk on the boulevard," said Voyer, who said they were relieved to hear from her.

"They said 'my God it's good to hear your voice.'"

Like many other local retirees, Voyer enjoys walking along Saint-Benoît Boulevard, which runs alongside the railway tracks and is lined with local businesses, restaurants and popular stores.

She hopes people can overcome their fear and return.

"We have to realize life is (still) beautiful after this tragedy. We can't worry about this happening again tomorrow because then we wouldn't leave the house," said Voyer.

"What makes me feel safe today is to see a lot of police and social workers on this road. I spoke with them."

She says community members are hoping to get the go-ahead from the city to plan an event over the weekend on the sidewalk of the boulevard — lining it with candles to reclaim the space.

Rachel Watts/CBC
Rachel Watts/CBC

'We have to overcome fear'

Pauline Parent and her friend, Roselyne Tremblay, were walking along the boulevard Wednesday when they stopped to talk to the social workers and police officers knocking on doors of businesses.

Parent says they suggested the community talk about what happened with each other.

"We have to talk about it and express what we are thinking. We didn't sleep well these past couple nights but sleep will soon return to us. It's day by day for us … but what impresses me a lot is the solidarity of everyone," said Parent.

"For us, our daily walks are our antidepressants, and we will continue."

Rachel Watts/CBC
Rachel Watts/CBC

"We can't be scared of this place," added Tremblay. "We have to overcome fear."

It was Hugo Lépine's first time returning to the stretch of boulevard that was closed off after the accident.

Standing in front of the microbrewery with his mother, Diane Lépine, he pointed to the side of the business behind the flower planters, where he says he saw the broken stroller that had been carrying one of the two small children who were injured Monday.

Rachel Watts/CBC
Rachel Watts/CBC

"It was all damaged," recalled Lépine, who is 15. "No one deserves that."

Lépine arrived near the scene with his mom after the crash. As a Secondary 3 student, he says social workers are at his school in the library until Friday to offer support.

"We're doing alright but we are shocked to see how things like this could happen in a small town like this one," said Lépine.

The town is preparing to hold a vigil on Thursday evening and a mass to honour the victims on Friday.

The driver of the truck has been charged with two counts of dangerous driving causing death, with more charges expected in the future, according to the Crown.