Canada: Truck crash that killed two ‘deliberate’, police say

Man faces charges after ramming pick-up truck into pedestrians in Amqui, Quebec, killing two and injuring nine others.

First responders work the scene where two men were killed when a pick-up truck drove into pedestrians in Amqui, Quebec, on March 13, 2023 [CTV News via AP]

Canadian police say a driver committed a “deliberate act” when he rammed a pick-up truck into pedestrians in a small town in the eastern province of Quebec, killing at least two people and injuring nine others.

The truck hit several people on Monday outside a microbrewery in Amqui, then continued for another 400 to 500 metres (450 to 550 yards) along the road, swerving and striking more people, witnesses told local media.

Quebec provincial police said two victims – men in their 60s and 70s, respectively – were killed and nine other people were injured, including three in serious condition. A baby and a toddler were among those hurt, authorities said.

The 38-year-old driver, a local man, turned himself in to police and has been charged with two counts of dangerous driving causing death, Canadian broadcaster CBC reported.

He made a brief court appearance on Tuesday afternoon. Footage shared by local reporters on social media showed a small crowd of people shouting insults at the suspect, Steeve Gagnon, as he entered the local courthouse.

“It has been established that the individual committed these acts in a deliberate way, so that’s why we’re currently talking about a murder investigation,” Quebec provincial police spokesman Sergeant Claude Doiron told reporters earlier in the day.

Doiron said the motive was still under investigation but police believe the incident was “premeditated” and the victims “were targeted at random”.

“We’re talking about pedestrians who were circulating along Route 132 on both sides of the road,” he said. “We don’t know the motives, the state of mind of the individual when he committed these acts.”

Prosecutor Simon Blanchette told reporters that additional charges could be filed. “But before we talk about murder, premeditated or otherwise, we need to collect the evidence,” he said.

“So we need to let police do their work. Their investigation is not over.”

The incident happened just after 3pm (19:00 GMT) on Monday along St-Benoit Boulevard in Amqui, a town of about 6,000 residents 350km (220 miles) northeast of Quebec City.

“My heart is with the people of Amqui, Quebec today,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said in a Twitter message. “As we learn more about the tragic events that have taken place, I’m keeping everyone affected in my thoughts.”

Mayor Sylvie Blanchette said everything would be done to support residents.

“I’m here for the residents of Amqui to tell them that we are wholeheartedly with them,” she said, as reported by Radio-Canada. “We know that they’ll need support, and that’s what we’ll do in the coming hours and the coming days.”

Translation: I asked for the Quebec flag to be flown at half-mast tomorrow, from dawn to dusk, on the central tower of the National Assembly in memory of the victims of the Amqui tragedy. Wholeheartedly with the victims and their loved-ones in this small community.

Quebec Premier Francois Legault also expressed his condolences and said he requested that the flag at the provincial legislature in Quebec City be flown at half-mast on Wednesday.

“Wholeheartedly with the victims and their loved-ones in this small community,” he wrote on Twitter.

Last month in Laval, Quebec, police said a man driving a city bus deliberately smashed into a daycare centre, killing two children.

In 2021, a man used a pick-up truck to kill four members of an immigrant family in London, Ontario, in what Trudeau said was a hate crime directed at Muslims.

In 2018, a man in a van rampaged through pedestrians in Toronto, killing 10 people.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies