At least two children were killed after a bus crashed into a day care center near Montreal on Wednesday, police said, with the driver arrested for homicide and eyewitnesses suggesting he may have acted deliberately.
Canadian police did not immediately confirm the cause of the crash, which left several children trapped under the vehicle after it slammed into the building in the suburb of Laval at around 8:30 am (1330 GMT).
Two children died in the collision, while six others transported to hospital “are out of danger,” said Laval police spokeswoman Erika Landry.
“The driver, a 51-year-old man, was arrested for homicide and dangerous driving,” she told reporters at the scene.
“I helped subdue the driver who got off the bus,” one father told Radio Canada, crying. His wife said the man was “half undressed” and both saw him “ram deliberately into the day care.”
“I’m devastated. We all are,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said. “Obviously, we’re all hoping and praying that the kids are all right, or that they pull through and get well soon.
“(I) can’t imagine what the families are going through. But obviously, if there’s anything the federal government can do, (it) will be there.”
The bus appeared to have smashed into a side of the building which is not located near the road but near a parking lot. Part of the roof collapsed on top of the front of the vehicle.
A large perimeter was deployed around the partly destroyed building, police in Laval, which is in the province of Quebec, told AFP. A helicopter passed overhead at regular intervals, according to an AFP journalist on the scene.
Another parent, holding her own child, said it was the center’s class of oldest children that was hit.
“It’s a shock, a lot of parents are panicking because they can’t get in, and their children are in there,” she added.
Victims were taken to Sainte-Justine hospital, which was set to have a press conference later in the day.
“What a terrible tragedy this morning in Laval,” Quebec Premier Francois Legault tweeted.
“There is nothing worse than being afraid for your child. I am thinking of the children, the parents and the employees,” he added.
“As a father, I am shaken,” he said later at a press conference.
“I can understand the anguish that the parents are going through,” he said.
“I am shocked by this news. The investigation continues to understand this tragic series of events,” tweeted Stephane Boyer, the mayor of Laval.
“All of my support to the parents at these difficult moments,” he added, saying he was going to the scene to meet with the families.
“Laval is wholeheartedly with you and will be there for you.”