Wednesday 22 August 2018

Ten dead, 15 injured after van ploughs into pedestrians in Toronto

A suspect has been arrested

A van seized by police lies damaged after an incident where a van struck multiple people at a major intersection in north Toronto, Ontario, Canada, April 23, 2018. REUTERS/Chris Donovan
A van seized by police lies damaged after an incident where a van struck multiple people at a major intersection in north Toronto, Ontario, Canada, April 23, 2018. REUTERS/Chris Donovan
Independent.ie Newsdesk

Independent.ie Newsdesk

A rented van ploughed down a crowded Toronto pavement, killing 10 people and injuring 15 before the driver fled and was quickly arrested in a confrontation with police, Canadian authorities have said.

Witnesses said the driver was moving fast and appeared to be acting deliberately, but police officials would not comment on the cause or any possible motive.

Speaking at a news conference on Monday night, Toronto Police Chief Mark Saunders raised the initial death toll of nine to 10, saying another victim had died at a hospital. He said 15 others were still in hospital.

Mr Saunders identified the man detained after the incident as Alek Minassian, 25, a resident of the Toronto suburb of Richmond Hill.

Authorities released few details in the case, saying the investigation was still under way, with witnesses being interviewed and surveillance video being examined.

"I can assure the public all our available resources have been brought in to investigate this tragic situation," Toronto Police Services Deputy Chief Peter Yuen said earlier.

The incident occurred as Cabinet ministers from the major industrial countries were gathered in Canada to discuss a range of international issues in the run-up to the G7 meeting near Quebec City in June.

Minister of Public Safety Ralph Goodale said that 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 driver was heading south on busy Yonge Street around 1.30pm local time and the streets were crowded with people enjoying an unseasonably warm day when the van jumped on to the pavement.

Ali Shaker, who was driving near the van at the time, told Canadian broadcast outlet CP24 that the driver appeared to be moving deliberately through the crowd at more than 30 mph, adding: "He just went on the sidewalk. 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," Mr Kang said. "But the person just went through the sidewalk. He could have stopped."

Video broadcast on several Canadian outlets showed police arresting the driver, dressed in dark clothes, after officers surrounded him and his rental Ryder van several blocks from where the incident occurred in the North York neighbourhood of northern 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.

Witness Phil Zullo told Canadian Press that he saw police arresting the suspect and people "strewn all over the road" where the incident occurred.

"I must have seen about five, six people being resuscitated by bystanders and by ambulance drivers," Mr Zullo said. "It was awful. Brutal."

Police shut down the Yonge and Finch intersection following the incident and Toronto's transit agency said it had suspended service on the subway line running through the area.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau expressed his sympathies for those involved. "Our hearts go out to everyone affected," Trudeau said in Ottawa. "We are going to have more to learn and more to say in the coming hours."

The Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Mr Simon Coveney, TD, has condemned the incident.

The Tánaiste said: “I unreservedly condemn what appears to have been a deliberate attempt to kill and injure as many people as possible. While it is not yet clear what the motive was and no national security connection has yet been established, it is nonetheless a tragic and appalling incident.

“On behalf of the Government and people of Ireland, I wish to extend my condolences to the families, friends and loved ones of the victims.

“It is particularly sad, coming so soon after the tragic accident involving the Humboldt Broncos' hockey team, which claimed 15 lives and which I know from talking to my own family members who live in Canada, impacted so deeply on the people of Canada.

“I extend my heartfelt condolences to the people of Canada at this most difficult of times.

"I know that the people of Canada, and of Toronto in particular, will be filled with shock and with sadness today. I want them to know that Ireland stands with the people of Toronto and with the people of Canada.

“There have been no reports of any Irish citizens being caught up in the incident. If any Irish citizens do need assistance or if friends or family have concerns about a loved one, they should contact 01 408-2000”

Press Association

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