Hundreds gather in Amqui, Que., for a vigil honoring victims of the deadly crash
Hundreds of residents of Amqui, Que., fell silent outside the Saint-Benoît-Joseph-Labre church Thursday night.
Some bowed their heads and clutched candles as the close-knit community gathered for a vigil to honor those killed and injured when a pickup truck crashed into a group of pedestrians on Monday.
After a moment of silence, the crowd chanted Ave Maria and held candles up in the sky for the nine injured and the two men – Gérald Charest, 65, and Jean Lafrenière, 73 – who were killed in what police say was premeditated.
“They were better people than me,” said resident Aurel Chabot.
He was close friends with both men and says their deaths left a hole in the heart of the city.
“It killed the energy of the city, we’re not going to hide that… When you go you think about it, when you go to sleep you think about it… It’s like the kids in Laval,” Chabot said, referring to last month’s fatal crash at a daycare center in this suburb of Montreal.
Chabot says he grew up with Charest — both hail from the nearby community of Albertville.
“They were loved, warm people who cared about others. It’s not fair,” Chabot said. “We keep our fingers crossed that we don’t lose others.”
His sister Aline Chabot says it was difficult to accept this tragedy.
“We’re trying to figure out why, but there’s no reason why this happened. We have to live with it,” she said. “We’re trying to move forward together to get through this.”
Claude Paquet, another resident, said how he will forever cherish the memories of his late friend Charest. Both volunteered for local hockey tournaments in the city.
“He was happy all the time. He was also a comedian, funny, with a strong personality and always in a good mood,” said Paquet.
Charest’s good sense of humor ran in the family, and things “always ended in laughter,” Paquet said.
He added that this vigil is important to honor his memory and move forward.
“We have to keep living. We must wish love and good luck to those who have overcome this tragedy, including the person who caused this tragedy… We must look forward to the future that we have for next week and tomorrow,” said Paquet.
Earlier Thursday, Prime Minister François Legault visited Amqui, shaking hands with residents and hugging one of Charest’s brothers.
“Let us not triumph over madness over hope. We must be able to find our joy. Life is beautiful, Amqui is beautiful… Yes, there is a time of sadness, but after that we must be brave to find the joy in life. We’re all with you,” Legault said.
Intervention workers in white vests were at the church and across town. They continue to speak to people who need support. The church is preparing to hold a mass Friday night to honor the victims.
The driver of the truck has been charged with two counts of dangerous driving resulting in death, with more charges expected in the future, according to Crown.