Published February 9, 2023

'There are kids under the bus': Quebec father recounts moments after bus hit daycare

The bus driver is facing charges including two counts of first-degree murder

By Morgan Lowrie in Laval

Grief-stricken community members dropped off flowers and stuffed animals on Thursday at the scene of an alleged bus attack against a daycare north of Montreal that killed two children and sent six to hospital.

André Beaudoin, a father of a two-year-old boy who attends the Laval, Que., daycare, returned to the scene a day after he pushed through debris to help pull injured children from under the city bus that had rammed into the building.

"I managed to get four out; the last girl … her head was stuck really bad," he told reporters.

Beaudoin said that on Wednesday morning he had just parked his car to drop off his son when he saw the city bus barrel into his child's daycare. He said he ran into the building and despite the fact that most of the children had left the building, "We heard the screams" of trapped children.

"I was the first under the bus … I have kids … so to me, there are kids under the bus, you have to get them out. No matter what happens."

On Thursday, large sheets of plywood covered the damaged wall of the daycare, next to a cheerful sign with pink letters bearing the name of the Garderie Éducative Ste-Rose. Piles of debris from the damaged roof and interior lay in the snow. Nearby residents, many in tears, stopped by to pay their respects and add to the growing memorial of flowers and stuffed toys in a snowbank in front of the daycare.

Two children injured in the alleged attack have been released from hospital, Montreal health officials said Thursday. Two four-year-olds were killed and six other young children were hospitalized. Officials with Montreal's Sainte-Justine children's hospital said two of the four patients transferred into their care have been released.

The two others are in a "favourable" state of health, the hospital said in a statement. "We continue to offer psychosocial support to their families." Two other children injured in the attack were being treated at a Laval hospital, and doctors have said their lives are not in danger.

Pierre Ny St-Amand, a 51-year-old driver with the Laval transit corporation, was arrested at the scene and later charged with two counts of first-degree murder as well as seven other charges, including attempted murder and aggravated assault.

On Thursday morning, authorities were still trying to understand what could have led someone to drive a bus into a daycare. "The motive remains incomprehensible still today," Public Security Minister François Bonnardel told reporters in Quebec City.

Asked what authorities could have done to prevent that kind of violence, Bonnardel said "no one can predict this kind of event. No one can predict that someone gets up in the morning, takes off with a bus and decides to hit a daycare with a bus."

Witnesses said the driver was delirious after exiting the bus, tearing off his clothes and screaming as several people restrained him on the ground before police arrived.

Late Wednesday, a police cruiser and two officers were stationed outside St-Amand's home on a quiet suburban street about 10 kilometres from the site of the tragedy. Several neighbours described the accused as a quiet, pleasant father of two young girls.

One man, Thanh-Ry Tran, said his family got together with St-Amand’s family a few times a year, adding that their wives would sometimes help each other in picking up or dropping off children. He said St-Amand had never shown signs of distress.

Lionel Carmant, the minister responsible for social services, told reporters in Quebec City that regional health officials in Laval found no evidence the accused had received care for mental health issues or had requested help.

Laval police spokeswoman Erika Landry says police have completed their investigation at the scene, and the bus was removed from the building. A command post was in place on Thursday with crisis workers on site to provide support to any citizens requiring it.

Quebec Premier François Legault and other political leaders are visiting the neighbourhood where the attack occurred to offer support to the families and daycare workers affected by the tragedy.

Banner image: THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 9, 2023.

-- With files from Sidhartha Banerjee in Montreal.

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