A Quebec man was greeted by boos as he made his way into the courthouse in Amqui, Que. Tuesday afternoon, one day after he allegedly plowed into pedestrians — killing two of them and injuring nine others — in what investigators believe was a “premeditated” act.
Steeve Gagnon, the 38-year-old driver, was officially charged with two counts of dangerous driving causing death.
He was taken into the courthouse in handcuffs after arriving in a dark van surrounded by police cruisers. He was booed by several people as he was escorted into the courthouse. He refused to answer any reporter questions.
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Gagnon will remain behind bars until his next court appearance on April 5.
A spokesperson for Quebec’s Crown prosecutors said it’s possible more charges could be filed as the investigation continues.
As court proceedings were underway, church bells in the small eastern Quebec town rang out for the victims of Monday’s tragedy.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said “our hearts go out to the community in Amqui, the families affected by this horrific, horrific incident.”
“We all have lots of questions, but right now we’re just trying to be there for survivors and families,” Trudeau said at a news conference in Bridgewater, N.S. “And we will continue be there as long as it takes as they get through this difficult time.”
Quebec Premier François Legault said he feels terrible about the alleged attack, and that he will be in the community with opposition leaders Thursday.
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The investigation continues into the fatal crash, which occurred Monday afternoon. Police say the driver allegedly drove into pedestrians with a pickup truck on St-Benoît Boulevard, also known as Route 132.
Provincial police Sgt. Claude Doiron told reporters gathered near the scene Tuesday the investigation suggests the act was “pre-meditated.”
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The investigation also suggests the driver swerved from one side of the road to the other over a “certain distance” to hit victims who were chosen at random and who range in age from less than one year to 77, according to Doiron.
Crash that killed 2 pedestrians in Amqui, Quebec appears intentional, police say
Two men were killed in the alleged attack. Police identified them as Gérald Charest, 65, and Jean Lafrenière, 73.
Three victims were still in critical condition after sustaining life-threatening injuries. The six other people were seriously injured, but police say their lives are not in danger.
Doiron confirmed two of the victims are young children: a baby under the age of one and a child under the age of three. They were both seriously injured, but are expected to survive.
In a statement, the CHU de Québec-Université Laval hospital network in Quebec City says it took six patients into its care. In an update Tuesday afternoon, it said both pediatric patients had been released from Hôpital de l’Enfant-Jésus — while another patient was stable but still under observation. The remaining three are still listed as critical.
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“Our teams are mobilized to provide the best care to patients and psychosocial services are available to support families and loved ones,” the network said.
The network said it will provide a new status update on Wednesday.
The suspect was arrested on Monday on suspicion of committing a fatal hit and run and homicide after he turned himself into authorities. The man in custody is from the area and was cooperating “quite well” with investigators, according to Doiron.
Police did not provide more information about the suspect’s identity, other than to say he wasn’t known to authorities.
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Doiron said a motive has yet to be established and said when it comes to the man’s state of mind, “that remains to be determined.”
The investigation is ongoing but Doiron said the fatal crash appeared to be an “isolated act.”
A large perimetre remained in place at the scene of the crash. Route 132 was closed to traffic, but a detour was set up in the area for local drivers.
‘All of Quebec is behind Amqui’
Quebec Public Security Minister François Bonnardel was in the Gaspésie town Tuesday afternoon alongside local officials.
He praised the work of first responders, adding his thoughts are with the victims and their families. Like Trudeau, he said many questions remain as police continue to investigate the alleged attack.
“All of Quebec is behind Amqui,” Bonnardel said.
Amqui Mayor Sylvie Blanchette had a message for her tight-knit community. She urged anyone affected by the tragedy and needs support to contact 811 for help.
She said the town of Amqui “will be there for its citizens.”
“Tell us what you need and we will be there for you,” Blanchette said.
‘Horrific’: Pickup truck strikes pedestrians in Amqui, Que., killing two
— with files from Motorcycle accident toronto today’ Aaron D’Andrea, Gloria Henriquez, Suzanne Lapointe and The Canadian Press
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