A man has been charged with criminal negligence causing death and negligence causing bodily harm after three children died and three others were seriously hurt in a tractor accident in a small Quebec community Wednesday evening.
The three children who were killed were all under the age of five. The ages of the injured children were not immediately released.
The accident happened in Notre-Dame-de-Stanbridge, about 75 kilometres southeast of Montreal in the province's Montérégie region.
Quebec provincial police say the tractor had been transporting 10 people — six children and four adults — in its front bucket. Two adults are in critical condition, and two other adults suffered minor injuries.
Police said it is still unclear why all 10 passengers fell from the bucket and were struck by the tractor at around 7 p.m. local time Wednesday.
No other vehicle was involved. Police said they do not yet know if the tractor suddenly swerved or if there was obstruction in the road. The tractor was also loaded with wood as the group was headed to a party.
The 38-year-old driver, who was arrested shortly after, was charged by phone on Thursday afternoon in Granby, Que.
His name is under a publication ban as are the names of the victims.
WATCH | Man charged with negligence after Quebec tractor accident kills 3 children:
Prosecutor Véronique Gauthier said Quebec's director of criminal and penal prosecutions (DPCP) decided not to lay separate charges for each of the victims, though that was an option.
"It was decided to lay two counts, criminal negligence causing death and criminal negligence causing bodily harm, by grouping the victims together," she said.
Bail was set at $5,000 and he was to be released on several conditions, including not coming into contact with certain people and not driving a motor vehicle except for emergencies or for work. He is allowed to drive a tractor and other farm machinery if he is alone on board.
Notre-Dame-de-Stanbridge Mayor Daniel Tétreault said the man is a local farmer.
"It's very, very, very sad," Tétreault said.
"It's like we're going to wake up tomorrow and it won't be true."
The mayor said it is a tight-knit community, adding, "it touches everyone, a tragedy like that."
Luc Perreault lives in the village part of the town and said he knew something bad had happened when he saw a slew of ambulances and police cars drive by.
He went to see if everyone was OK and learned of the tragedy.
"I just saw the ambulances. It's nothing you want to get close to. It's nothing anybody wanted to see. It affected a lot of people," Perreault said.
WATCH | Neighbour Luc Perreault describes what he saw:
It is illegal for people to ride inside the bucket of a moving tractor in Quebec. Police had suspected alcohol was involved in the incident, but there were no alcohol-related charges.
The driver will be back in court on Sept. 28. The Crown may add more charges before then.
With files from Kate McKenna and Radio-Canada
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