Friday 14 December 2018

Nine killed as van ploughs through crowds in Toronto

Police cover a victim’s body after the white van was driven on to busy pavements. Photo: AP
Police cover a victim’s body after the white van was driven on to busy pavements. Photo: AP

Ben Riley-Smith and Christopher Guly Toronto

A van driver mounted a kerb and hit pedestrians in Toronto, Canada, yesterday, leaving nine people dead and 16 others injured.

Witnesses described seeing the vehicle swerve to deliberately hit pedestrians, leaving a pushchair "split in half" and hitting people sitting on a bench.

Two witnesses are left in shock by the scenes in the Toronto sunshine yesterday lunchtime. Photo: Reuters
Two witnesses are left in shock by the scenes in the Toronto sunshine yesterday lunchtime. Photo: Reuters

Numerous body bags were seen in the street after the attack, according to testimonies of people in the city, with one describing the scene as like a "war zone".

There were also accounts of victims with faces "full of blood" and twisted limbs, with one witness suggesting the van drove more than half a mile hitting people.

The suspect was in custody last night and it was unclear what triggered the apparent attack. A police spokesman said it was too early to discuss motives.

Peter Yuen, Toronto's acting deputy chief, said: "The driver is in custody and he is being investigated in relation to the events that took place this afternoon.

Members of the public attempt to care for another person caught in the vehicle’s path. Photo: Reuters
Members of the public attempt to care for another person caught in the vehicle’s path. Photo: Reuters

"We have nine people that are dead and 16 that are injured."

The incident occurred in the Yonge Street and Finch Avenue area of the city, according to police, which is around 18 miles north of the city centre. It began around 1.30pm Toronto time yesterday.

There was a meeting of G7 ministers in the city, but the gathering was not near the site of the incident.

Justin Trudeau, the Canadian prime minister, said: "We're still gathering information and as soon as we can, we'll share more information with Canadians."

Mr Trudeau added: "Our thoughts are with all those affected by the terrible incident at Yonge and Finch in Toronto. Thank you to the first responders working at the scene - we're monitoring the situation closely".

Numerous witnesses, many of whom appeared shaken by the incident, described seeing the van swerving to hit pedestrians.

James Forrester saw the aftermath of the incident from the 19th floor of an office building where he works as a financial services representative with the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce.

"Police were just arriving, people were screaming, there were bodies on the ground, and I saw a lot of blood," he said.

Mr Forrester described seeing three dead bodies on the pavement covered by orange sheets, about 10 ambulances, seven police cars and an estimated crowd of 30 onlookers.

He added that the white van travelled about two kilometres before it was stopped by police, and that as many as 40 people may have been hit.

Henry Miller, who lives in an apartment overlooking the street, told Sky News: "I heard a large amount of honking ... and I stepped out onto the balcony to see what was causing the trouble and at this point I saw a lady lying on the floor and the van driving off with people running around trying to help her".

Mr Miller said the white van "[sped] probably 60-70mph down this major road, swerving to what I would say fairly deliberately hit pedestrians and swerving in and out of traffic before eventually careering off into one of the other side streets and out of view".

One witness described seeing a middle-aged man "barely moving" on the ground after being hit. He told CNN: "I feel sick to my stomach ... I've never seen anything like this before."

Kash Alavi, another witness, described seeing victims with faces "full of blood", telling CNN that the legs of those hit had been "twisted and contorted".

Another witness speaking to the network who did not give his name became emotional describing how the van swerved to repeatedly hit pedestrians.

"He's just hitting people one by one by one. It was a nightmare," he said. The van "just went on the side walk and started hitting everyone", he added.

The witness said seeing a pushchair "split in half" and a group of people sitting on a bench being hit by the van. He said what he had witnessed was like "a war zone".

Meaghan Gray, a Toronto police spokesman, said: "At this point it's too early to tell what if any motive there was".

Kim McKinnon, Toronto paramedic spokesman, said at least eight ambulances took victims of the incident to nearby Sunnybrook hospital. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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