The driver of a pickup truck that killed two people and injured nine others in the eastern Quebec town of Amqui acted deliberately and with premeditation, running down victims who ranged in age from a baby to a 77-year-old, police said Tuesday.
Provincial police Sgt. Claude Doiron told reporters near the scene the 38-year-old driver was expected to appear in court Tuesday afternoon.
Doiron said the investigation suggests the driver swerved from one side of the road to the other over a considerable distance to hit victims who appeared to be selected at random.
“We’re talking about pedestrians who were walking all along the (road), on both sides in fact, over a certain distance,” he said.
Doiron said it’s unclear whether the suspect knew any of the victims. It’s not clear what the motive was, or the suspect’s state of mind at the time of the crash, he added.
Gérald Charest, 65, and Jean Lafrenière, 73, were killed during the alleged attack.
The injured include two children — one who is less than one year old and another who is about three — who were both seriously hurt but whose lives are not in danger. On Monday night, a crumpled baby stroller could be seen off the side of the road behind police tape.
Six of the injured, including the children, were airlifted to a hospital in Quebec City, where three adults remained in critical condition as of Tuesday morning. One victim remained in hospital in Amqui, where their condition was described as stable.
David Morin, a local resident, said he witnessed the panicked moments that followed the tragedy. A shaken Morin told reporters on Tuesday he couldn’t get the image of one of the victims out of his head.
“He was alive when I arrived, and when I went to see another person, I came back and he was dead,” he said.
Morin described the moments that followed, as residents ran to the aid of the victims. He recalled sitting next to a woman dressed in pink, and asking her name as others helped the two young children.
The suspect turned himself into police shortly after the Monday afternoon collisions and is being investigated by police for hit-and-run and murder.
Doiron said the suspect comes from the area but had not “necessarily” had previous encounters with police. The suspect was co-operating well with authorities, he added.
Both Morin and Kristina Michaud, the local Bloc Québécois MP who is from Amqui, described the town of 6,000 as a peaceful place where everybody knows everyone else.
“Here in Amqui, when we hear a police, ambulance or fire truck siren, we glue ourselves to the windows, because we ask ourselves ‘Who is it? I must know the person,'” said Michaud, who said her own mother regularly walks the road where the crash happened.
“Yesterday, it was several people we knew (who were affected.) It’s extremely troubling,” she added.
“The whole community wishes it were just a bad dream.”
Patrice Bergeron, The Canadian Press
This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 14, 2023.
— With files from Morgan Lowrie in Montreal