Ten people have been confirmed dead after a van jumped a curb and ploughed through pedestrians on a busy downtown Toronto street earlier yesterday, in an incident witnesses described as a “nightmare”. Police named the suspect as Alek Minassian, a 25-year-old from Richmond Hill, a suburb of Toronto. Mr Minassian was arrested “without incident” after allegedly striking dozens of pedestrians, Toronto Police Chief Mark Saunders told reporters at a press conference. He added that the attack “definitely looked deliberate”, though he would not call it an act of terror. At least 15 other people were injured in the attack. Toronto Police Services Deputy Chief Peter Yuen said police were still interviewing witnesses and examining surveillance video related to the incident, and said “all our available resources” were being dedicated to the investigation.
The incident took place around 1.30pm local time on Monday – a popular lunch hour on an unseasonably warm day. Photos from the scene showed tarps covering what appeared to be victims’ bodies along the street. The scene stretched for several blocks, with Stephen Powell, the district chief for Toronto Fire, telling CNN that the vehicle drove for between half a mile and a mile. Footage from the aftermath of the incident appeared to show the suspect telling police officers to kill him, and claiming to be armed. “I have a gun in my pocket … shoot me in the head,” a person identified as the suspect could be heard saying in video posted to social media. Phil Zullo, a Toronto resident, told Canadian Press he saw police arresting a man who had been driving a Ryder rental truck. He said there were people “strewn all over the road” and called the scene “brutal”. Ryder Systems Inc confirmed that one of their vehicles was involved. Another witness, Ham Yu-Jin, told the Toronto Star he thought the incident was “not a car accident”. Eyewitness Ali Shaker said he had assumed the driver was having a medical emergency, and tried to chase him down the street. “He hit every everybody on the sidewalk; anybody in his way he would hit,” Mr Shaker told CTV News.
“The bus stop – all shattered. There was a lady in there I saw and I stopped and I looked and I went after, and all I see is just crumbling one by one.” Sunnybrook Hospital in Toronto said on Twitter that they had received 10 victims from the incident, two of whom were pronounced dead on arrival. Five more were in serious condition. North York General Hospital also confirmed to CP24 that they had received multiple victims. The extend of their injuries was not immediately known. The incident occurred as foreign ministers gathered in the city to prepare for the upcoming G7 meeting. The police investigation shut down the intersection near where the incident occurred, and Toronto’s transit agency suspended the subway to the area. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau responded with a tweet, thanking first responders and saying his thoughts were with those affected. He told reporters on the scene he would have more to say in the coming hours. Speaking at a press conference shortly after the crash, Toronto Mayor John Tory assured residents of Toronto they were in “safe hands”, and urged consideration and understanding. “I hope that we will as a city remind ourselves of the fact that we are admired around the world for being inclusive and for being accepting and understanding and considerate, and that we are united in standing in solidarity with those who have fallen victim to this terrible tragedy today,” he said.