A city bus crashed into a day care center north of Montreal on Wednesday, killing two children and injuring six, authorities said. The driver was arrested and charged with homicide and careless driving.
A neighbor who ran to the center in Laval, Quebec, said she saw children screaming and crying and watched a mother collapse. Other panicked parents were diverted to a nearby elementary school as dozens of police and emergency vehicles swarmed the area.
Immediately after the crash, the driver stepped out of the bus, ripped his clothes off and started screaming, another neighbor said.
Hamdi Ben Chaabane, who said he lives near the day care, told The Montreal Gazette that he and several other people tried to subdue the bus driver after the crash.
"We had to hit him to subdue him, and we got him on the ground, and then the police put the handcuffs on him," Ben Chaabane told the Gazette.
The driver is 51, had worked for Societe de transport de Laval for 10 years, and had no criminal history and a clean work record, police officials and Laval Mayor Stephane Boyer said at two separate news conferences.
The transit agency said in a statement that it could not comment on the crash, citing the continuing investigation.
"Our energies are currently focused on cooperating with the investigation and taking care of our employees," the agency said.
Boyer said on Twitter that he was at the scene, meeting with families.
"I am shocked by this news," he wrote. "The investigation into this tragic series of events is ongoing. My support goes out to parents in these difficult times. Laval is wholeheartedly with you and will be there for you."
"As of now, we don't know the motive for the crime," police spokesperson Erika Landry said. She did not say why police determined the crash to be a homicide and didn't release the driver's name. Laval Police Chief Pierre Brochet said police are interviewing the driver.
"There is a theory that it was an intentional act, but that remains to be confirmed by the investigation," Boyer said.
Police said that a crisis center had been set up for parents and others to reunite with the children, as horror spread throughout the community.
The day care is located at the end of a driveway off a cul-de-sac. There is a bus stop on the cul-de-sac, but the driver would have had to veer off the road and head down the long driveway to hit the building.
"There were no signs of skidmarks. .... He went directly into the day care," said another eyewitness, Mario Sirois.
Sirois' wife, Ginette Lamoureux, the neighbor who ran into the day care shortly after the crash, said the driver was hysterical.
"His eyes were like popping out," she said.
The six children who were hospitalized had injuries that were not life-threatening, Brochet said.
A senior Canadian government official said the crash was not a terrorist act and did not pose a threat to national security. The official spoke on condition of anonymity as they were not authorized to speak publicly on the matter.
Francois Legault, the Quebec premier, said in French at a news conference that he was thinking of the children and parents affected and the employees of the day care center.
"We will offer the parents all the help we are capable of giving them," Legault said. "But obviously, as a father, I'm shaken and I find this hard, and I can understand the anguish that they're living through at the moment."
Brochet said officers at the scene were crying.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said his office was "following the situation closely."
He also wrote on Twitter that his "heart is with the people of Laval today."
"No words can take away the pain and fear that parents, children, and workers are feeling -- but we are here for you," he wrote. "I'm keeping everyone affected by this unfathomable, tragic event in my thoughts."
Members of Parliament observed a moment of silence in Ottawa.
Information for this article was contributed by Rob Gillies of The Associated Press and by Michael Levenson and Amanda Holpuch of The New York Times.