Two people were killed and nine others were injured Monday afternoon when a pickup truck plowed into pedestrians who were walking beside a road in the eastern Quebec town of Amqui, police said.
Provincial police spokeswoman Sgt. Hélène St-Pierre said the 38-year-old driver, a local resident, turned himself in to police immediately after the crash and was arrested under suspicion of committing a fatal hit and run.
Police said later Monday the accused was facing murder charges in connection with the deaths.
“For now, the investigation tends to show that the collision was a voluntary act committed by the suspect,” St-Pierre said late Monday evening.
She said the two people killed were both men, one in his 60s and the other in his 70s. Among the injured, three suffered serious injuries and were in critical condition and six others were being evaluated for non-life-threatening injuries, she said.
Regional health authorities in the Lower St-Lawrence region confirmed six of the injured were transported by plane to a Quebec City hospital.
Provincial police would not discuss a possible motive behind the incident.
Alain Gilbert, a truck driver, said he was driving into Amqui when an ambulance raced past him before almost immediately pulling over to attend to a person lying on the sidewalk.
As he drove, Gilbert saw more ambulances and more people on the ground — about four or possibly five people spread over a distance of about 500 metres, he believes.
He saw a police officer performing CPR on one person lying on the ground. “(That person) seemed to be in very bad shape,” he said in a phone interview. He said there didn’t appear to be any children in the group.
The incident happened just after 3 p.m. along St-Benoit Boulevard in Amqui, about 350 kilometres northeast of Quebec City.
St-Pierre said investigators and accident reconstruction experts are working to establish the circumstances of the crash. “Everything indicates it was an isolated incident, and that there is no more danger in the area, and there is just one suspect,” she said.
A spokesperson for the regional health board confirmed a code orange had been declared at the Amqui hospital, which normally indicates a disaster situation or one with a high number of casualties.
Both Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Quebec Premier François Legault responded with concern to the reports of serious injuries.
“As we learn more about the tragic events that have taken place, I’m keeping everyone affected in my thoughts,” Trudeau wrote on Twitter. “And to the first responders: Thank you for acting quickly, courageously, and professionally.”
Legault, also on Twitter, wrote: “All my thoughts are with the victims and their loved ones. Thank you to the first responders on the ground.”
Pascal Bérubé, who represents the region in the provincial legislature, said he was going to the scene and would not be present at the legislature on Tuesday. Public Security Minister François Bonnardel said he would also be heading to the scene.