How residents in Amqui, Que. are ‘rallying’ in wake of fatal crash


Diane Ryan waited on the church stairs in her community of Amqui, Que., the day after a driver rammed into pedestrians on a busy boulevard in a brazen alleged attack.

The fatal crash killed two men and injured nine others Monday in what Quebec provincial police have described as a “premeditated act.” Steeve Gagnon, 38, was charged with dangerous driving causing the deaths of Gérald Charest, 65, and Jean Lafrenière, 73.

After she learned about the tragedy, Ryan says she cried her eyes out.

“It’s close here. It is not like in a big city,” said Ryan, who grew up in the Gatineau region. “When something this tragic happens to one person, it happens to everyone.”

Ryan moved to the small eastern Quebec town, which boasts a little over 6,000 people, three years ago. Police believe the victims were chosen at random ⁠— and Ryan says she and her mom often walk along the same stretch on St-Benoît Boulevard.

While Ryan doesn’t personally know the victims, she says “everyone knows someone who does” and the entire community is affected by the searing loss.

That’s why she decided to stand outside the church, which has become a gathering point for grief-stricken residents. Ryan wanted to offer an ear to those who need it.

“Everyone is just rallying. That’s how the community is tight here,” Ryan said.

The concrete stairs are lined with dozens of stuffed animals, candles and a vase of bright-coloured flowers at the top. The church bells ring out in the town every day after 3 p.m., at the same time the victims were struck.

The makeshift memorial is one of many tributes to the victims across Canada. In Toronto, the CN Tower dimmed for five minutes at the top of each hour Tuesday night.

Quebec Premier François Legault announced that the flag atop the legislature would be lowered to half-mast Wednesday and that he would visit Amqui on Thursday along with the leaders of the major opposition parties.

A memorial service will be held Friday at the church in Amqui.

with files from Global News’ Suzanne Lapointe and The Canadian Press

&copy 2023 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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