MONTREAL — Hundreds of people gathered Friday evening for a special mass in Amqui, Que., a town where two people were killed and nine injured when a pickup truck crashed into pedestrians.
Inside the Saint-Benoît-Joseph-Labre church, people greeted and hugged each other before the memorial mass presided over by Archbishop Denis Grondin began in memory of the victims and to support the tight-knit community that was left reeling by the tragedy.
Gérald Charest and Jean Lafrenière died after being struck on Monday afternoon.
"I want to welcome the family members directly or indirectly affected by the attack," Grondin said at the start of the mass. He then thanked the politicians present for their support, including federal Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez.
Amqui Mayor Sylvie Blanchette went to the pulpit and spoke about the victims.
"Amqui residents are dynamic and cheerful people that are always ready to help others. These qualities perfectly represent Gérald and Jean, who left us on Monday," Blanchette said.
The mayor thanked the first responders and everyone who helped the injured after the crash.
"We are all here to give hope to those who need it. Amqui, you are beautiful. You are dynamic. You are shaped by great people, and we will continue to thrive, laugh and live despite this sad event," Blanchette said.
"Let us be strong, and let us be proud. We will never forget March 13, 2023, but we will always be one big family,"
After the mass, people were invited to meet at Pierre-et-Maurice-Gagné park in Amqui, where a commemorative event was held.
Police have said those injured in the crash range in age from less than a year old to 77. On Thursday, a Quebec City hospital said two injured adults remained in critical condition.
A candlelight vigil was held in front of the church Thursday evening in the community about 350 kilometres northeast of Quebec City.
Steeve Gagnon, 38, is charged with two counts of dangerous driving causing death and prosecutors have said more charges will follow.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 17, 2023.
— With files from Sidhartha Banerjee.
This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Meta and Canadian Press News Fellowship.
Marisela Amador, The Canadian Press