MONTREAL – The sound of church bells rang out in Laval, Que., on Thursday as family and friends bade an emotional farewell to one of the two young children killed when a bus crashed into a daycare last week.
The bells of the Ste-Rose-de-Lima church tolled at 11 a.m. as five men carried the small white casket of Jacob Gauthier into the sanctuary. Tearful mourners trailed behind as it emerged a little more than an hour later, following a private service.
A funeral notice published last week said Jacob was four and a half and is survived by his mother, father, sister, as well as grandparents and other extended family.
Michel Bouchard, the parish priest, presided over the ceremony for a child he’d baptized as a baby just a few years earlier.
“When I saw the coffin for a child, it’s a small one,” he told reporters after the service. “We had goosebumps because it’s a young boy.”
Bouchard said he’d spoken to the family, who were devastated but “strong.” The only thing they can do, he said, is to offer their child to God.
“This little boy will take care of his parents in heaven,” he said.
He said the church pews were filled with Jacob’s loved ones, as well as community members who had come to support the family.
Clemence Vachon, 77, said the touching ceremony included a singer who performed some of Jacob’s favourite songs, as well as a choir and violins.
Speaking outside the church, she said she hoped that knowing the community was behind them “would be a support” for the family.
Media were asked to keep their distance as family and friends made their way into the church, past tributes of stuffed animals and flowers that were placed outside the door.
Four silver cars from the funeral home pulled up shortly before the service started, and men could be seen unloading large displays of white flowers.
After the ceremony, family members could be seen hugging and comforting each other. Two older women waved and blew a kiss toward the hearse as the doors closed with the small casket inside.
Samir Alahmad, the president of the province’s private daycare association, said before the ceremony it is hard to describe the magnitude of the parents’ pain.
“Every parent in Quebec, every citizen in Quebec, should feel the pain those people are suffering now,” he said outside the church. “There’s no words to describe what the family is suffering today.”
More than a week after the tragedy, “we still don’t have an answer for how this happened,” he said.
The alleged bus attack at the Garderie Educative Ste-Rose on Feb. 8 left two children dead and sent six to hospital with injuries.
Pierre Ny St-Amand, a 51-year-old driver with the Laval transit corporation, was arrested at the scene and later charged with two counts of first-degree murder and seven other offences, including attempted murder and aggravated assault. His case returns to court on Friday.
Bouchard said a funeral for the second child, who was identified by her parents as Maeva David, will also take place at the church. The date for that service has not been announced.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 16, 2023.
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