TORONTO -- A rented van jumped onto a crowded Toronto sidewalk Monday, killing 10 people and injuring 15 before the driver fled and was quickly arrested in a confrontation with police, Canadian authorities said.
Witnesses and the police chief said the driver, identified by authorities as Alek Minassian, was moving fast and appeared to intentionally jump a curb in the North York neighborhood as people filled the sidewalks on a warm afternoon. He continued for more than a mile, knocking out a fire hydrant and leaving bodies strewn in his wake.
Officials would not comment on a possible motive except to play down a possible connection to terrorism, a thought that occurred to many after a series of attacks involving trucks and pedestrians in Europe and the presence in Toronto this week of Cabinet ministers from the G-7 nations.
Still, Toronto Police Chief Mark Saunders said he did not think it was an accident.
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Photos by The Associated Press
Photos by The Associated Press
"The incident definitely looked deliberate," Saunders said at a news conference Monday night as he announced that the initial death toll of nine had risen to 10 after another victim died at a hospital. He said 15 others were hospitalized.
Saunders said Minassian, who lives in the Toronto suburb of Richmond Hill, had not been known to police previously.
The driver was heading south on busy Yonge Street, Toronto's main north-south artery, about 1:30 p.m., and the streets were crowded with people when the van jumped onto the sidewalk.
John Flengas, acting supervisor of Toronto Emergency Medical Services, described the scene as "pure carnage" on the CP24 broadcast outlet.
Toronto Police Services Deputy Chief Peter Yuen said police were still interviewing witnesses and examining surveillance video of the incident as part of what he called a "complex" investigation. "There were a lot of pedestrians out, a lot of witnesses out, enjoying the sunny afternoon," Yuen said. "I ask the city of Toronto to pray for our victims and to help the Toronto Police Service bring this matter to a successful conclusion."
"I can assure the public all our available resources have been brought in to investigate this tragic situation," he said.
Ten victims arrived at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Center on Monday, Dr. Dan Cass, its executive vice president, said at a news conference. Two were declared dead on arrival, five were in critical condition and three were in serious condition, he said. He did not have information about the nature of the victims' injuries and said the hospital had not yet confirmed the identities of the deceased.
"The circumstances certainly are unprecedented," Cass said.
Minister of Public Safety Ralph Goodale said it was too soon to say whether the crash was a case of international terrorism and that the government had not raised its terrorism alert.
A senior national government official later said that authorities had not turned over the investigation to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, a sign that investigators believed it unlikely terrorism was the motive. The official agreed to reveal that information only if not quoted by name.
Ali Shaker, who was driving near the van at the time, told CP24 that the driver appeared to be moving deliberately through the crowd at more than 30 mph. He said the van had mowed down everything in its path: pedestrians, mailboxes, electrical poles, benches and a fire hydrant.
"One by one, one by one," he said, describing the pedestrians being struck. "Holy God, I've never seen such a sight before. I feel sick."
"He just went on the sidewalk," a distraught Shaker said. "He just started hitting everybody, man. He hit every single person on the sidewalk. Anybody in his way he would hit."
Witness Peter Kang told CTV News that the driver did not seem to make any effort to stop.
"If it was an accident he would have stopped," Kang said. "But the person just went through the sidewalk. He could have stopped."
Images posted on social media appeared to show bodies lying on a broad, tree-lined sidewalk near a pedestrian plaza, and some of them appeared to have been covered with blankets. Several witnesses said the debris left by the crash included a child's stroller.
Video shown on several Canadian outlets showed police arresting the driver, a balding, middle-aged man dressed in dark clothes, after officers surrounded him and his rental Ryder van several blocks from where the incident occurred in north Toronto. He appeared to make some sort of gesture at the police with an object in his hand just before they ordered him to lie down on the ground and took him away.
In a video posted on The Toronto Star website, the man appears to yell, "Kill me" as a Toronto police officer demands repeatedly that he get down.
"I have a gun in my pocket," the man yelled.
The police officer responded by saying: "I don't care. Get down."
He was then told by police to cooperate or he would be shot. "Shoot me in the head," the man yelled.
A witness, Phil Zullo, told Canadian Press that he saw police arresting a man who had been driving a Ryder rental truck and saw people "strewn all over the road" where the crash occurred.
"I must have seen about five, six people being resuscitated by bystanders and by ambulance drivers," Zullo said. "It was awful. Brutal."
A bystander who rushed to help the pedestrian who was struck while crossing the street said that "pieces of the van went flying everywhere."
Reza Bahramian said he spent half an hour doing CPR on one of the victims after witnessing the van drive onto the sidewalk and hit four people.
"Me and others followed him and shouted to stop," he said, adding that he's lived in Canada's biggest city for 27 years and has never experienced anything like this incident before. "This is very strange for me."
Police shut down the Yonge and Finch intersection after the crash, and Toronto's transit agency said it had suspended service on the subway line running through the area.
Yellow police tape stretched for blocks around the scene, with scores of police and fire vehicles and several bystanders.
Save for a police helicopter circling overhead, the incident brought an eerie silence to one of the city's busiest streets in the center of North York, a part of Toronto that has grown over the past two decades into a secondary downtown.
The area -- dotted with shops, condo towers and many Korean restaurants -- is so heavily trafficked that Toronto's City Council earlier this year debated widening the sidewalks and reducing lanes of traffic to make it more pedestrian-friendly.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau expressed his sympathies for those involved. "We should all feel safe walking in our cities and communities," he said. "We are monitoring this situation closely, and will continue working with our law enforcement partners around the country to ensure the safety and security of all Canadians."
The White House offered its condolences, with press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders saying in a statement Monday night that the U.S. stands with the Canadian people "in the aftermath of today's tragic event in Toronto."
Information for this article was contributed by Charmaine Noronha, Ben Fox and Rob Gillies of The Associated Press; by Kristine Owram, Doug Alexander, Josh Wingrove Danielle Bochove and Scott Deveau of Bloomberg News;by Ian Austen and Liam Stack of The New York Times; and by Amanda Coletta, Alan Freeman and Chico Harlan of The Washington Post.
A Section on 04/24/2018
Print Headline: Van rams into Toronto crowd; 10 people killed, 15 hurt; police say fleeing driver arrested