LAVAL, Quebec (AP) — A city bus crashed into a day care center north of Montreal on Wednesday, leaving two children dead and sending six children to the hospital, officials said. The bus driver was arrested and charged with homicide and careless driving.
Police set up a large perimeter around the building housing the day care in Laval, Quebec, and panicked parents who ran to the center were diverted to a nearby elementary school. Dozens of police and emergency vehicles lined the blocked-off road leading to the daycare.
Laval police spokesperson Erika Landry identified the driver as a 51-year-old employee, but did not release his name. Laval Mayor Stéphane Boyer said the driver has worked for Societe de transport de Laval for about 10 years and has no incidents of note in his file.
“There is a theory that it was an intentional act, but that remains to be confirmed by the investigation,” Boyer said. Added Landry, “As of now, we don’t know the motive.”
A man who lives near the daycare said he rushed to the scene of the crash and that he and three parents managed to subdue the driver, who he said stepped out of the bus, removed all his clothing and started screaming.
“The first thing he did was take off all his clothes after opening the bus door. …. He was just yelling; there were no words coming out of his mouth,” said Hamdi Benchaabane.
The daycare is located at the end of a driveway off a cul-de-sac. There is a bus stop on the cul-de-sac, but the driver would have had to veer off the road and head down the long driveway to hit the building.
Benchaabane said he and the others had to strike the driver to get him under control, before police cuffed the man. The driver, he said, “was in a different world.”
Benchaabane said he was able to help pull one child from the daycare, adding that he and the others tried to save a second child before firefighters ordered them to leave because pieces of the roof were at risk of falling.
“It was a nightmare, I can’t believe it,” he said of what he witnessed. “It was horrible.”
Aerial news footage from the scene shows the bus crashed into the front of the daycare center. The building is located at the end of a driveway, and the bus driver would have had to leave the road to hit it.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said his office was “following the situation closely.”