A city bus crashed into a kindergarten north of Montreal on Wednesday, killing two children and sending six others to hospital, authorities said. The bus driver was arrested and charged with manslaughter and reckless driving.
Police set up a large perimeter around the building that houses the kindergarten in Laval, Quebec, and sent panicked parents who ran into the center to a nearby elementary school. Dozens of police and ambulances lined the blocked road leading to the day care center.
The eyewitness said that immediately after the accident, the driver got out of the bus, tore off his clothes and started screaming.
“He was just screaming; there were no words coming out of his mouth,” Hamdi Benchaobane said.
The driver, 51, had worked for the Societe de transport de Laval for 10 years and had no criminal record and a clean work history, police officials and Laval Mayor Stéphane Boyer said in two separate news conferences.
“At this time, we do not know the motive for the crime,” police spokeswoman Erica Landry said. She did not say why police ruled the crash a homicide or release the name of the driver. Laval Police Chief Pierre Broschet said police are interviewing the driver.
“There is a theory that it was an intentional act, but that remains to be confirmed by the investigation,” Boyer said.
The daycare is at the end of the driveway off the cul-de-sac. There is a bus stop at the cul-de-sac, but the driver would have to pull off the road and head down a long driveway to hit the building.
“There were no skid marks… He went straight to the kindergarten,” said another eyewitness, Mario Sirois.
The six children who were hospitalized suffered non-life-threatening injuries, Brachet said.
A senior representative of the Canadian government said that the disaster was not an act of terrorism and did not pose a threat to national security. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly on the matter.
Benchaobane, who lives near the kindergarten, said he rushed to the scene of the accident and that he and his three parents managed to restrain the driver.
He said they had to hit the driver to get him under control before officers handcuffed the man. The driver, he said, “was in another world.”
Benchaabane said he was able to pull one child out of the daycare, adding that he and others tried to rescue a second child before firefighters told 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 terrible.
Brachet said officers at the scene were crying.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said his office was “closely monitoring the situation.”