Dozens killed and injured as van rams pedestrians in Toronto
Sheetal Sukhija - Tuesday 24th April, 2018
Ten people were killed, 15 injured when the van slammed into pedestrians
A white van jumped a curb and slammed into pedestrians on a crowded Toronto street
Canada’s minister for public safety said it was too soon to say whether the crash was a case of international terrorism
TORONTO, Canada - On Monday, ten people were killed and 15 others injured after a white van jumped a curb and slammed into pedestrians on a crowded Toronto street.
The incident took place at 1.30 pm on Sunday afternoon and while the incident left witnesses stunned by the carnage, Toronto police said that the driver was arrested near the scene.
During a busy lunchtime thoroughfare in Toronto, the white rental Ryder van ran over a pedestrian crossing the street.
The police said that the van then mounted a sidewalk and began plowing into people indiscriminately.
According to authorities, the driver’s actions appeared intentional, but did not seem to have been an act of terrorism.
Toronto police chief, Mark Saunders declared, “The city is safe,” and pointed out that the driver had been identified as 25-year-old Alek Minassian.
Saunders added that the driver appeared to intentionally target pedestrians, telling reporters, "The actions definitely looked deliberate. It looks intentional."
He added that the investigation is still in the early stages and nothing has been ruled out.
The police chief added, “We’re working collaboratively not just on a local level but on a federal and provincial level. We’re looking strongly at the exact motive.”
Some witnesses captured the van driver’s arrest in a video that showed officers warning him after he exited the van to “get down or you’ll be shot.”
To which, the driver was heard saying, “Shoot me in the head.”
Subsequently, the driver was subdued without any shots being fired and has been taken into custody after initially refusing to surrender.
However, witnesses described the incident as complete carnage and said that they could see the bodies of the dead and injured, some covered by orange tarps, lying on a broad sidewalk, scattered with debris, including a child’s stroller along the busy section of Yonge Street and Finch Avenue.
Saunders said the driver, Minassian is a resident of the Toronto suburb of Richmond Hill and had not been known to police previously.
In a statement, Toronto police spokeswoman Meaghan Gray stressed, "At this point it's too early to tell what, if any, motive there was.”
Further, the police said that the crash occurred in the Lastman Square area, not far from the city center and that nearby streets were closed and the closest subway stop was shut down.
Even Canada's minister of public safety, Ralph Goodale told reporters that it was too soon to say whether the crash is a case of international terrorism.
He said, “The events that happened on the street behind us are horrendous but they do not appear to be connected in any way to national security based on the information at this time.”
Further, Stephan Powell, a spokesman for the Toronto Fire Department, added that pedestrians were struck at “at least two locations.”
Officials at the hospital where some of those injured in the incident were taken, the Sunnybrook Health Sciences Center said that eight people were being treated there and that precautions were being taken to protect them.
In a statement post the incident, the hospital said, "Sunnybrook’s Emergency Department has been locked down as an added precaution and access to the ... campus is being controlled.”
John Flengas, the acting E.M.S. supervisor for Sunnybrook Health Sciences Center, which said it received 10 victims from the scene, described it as “pure carnage.”
He said that he had seen “victims everywhere.”
The hospital tweeted on Monday night that five victims are in a critical condition, two in a serious condition, and another is fair.
Officials also pointed out that 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.
Mayor John Tory and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said they were monitoring the investigation.
The mayor said, “My thoughts are with those affected by this incident and the front-line responders who are working to help those injured.”
Tory said the tragedy happened as people were out enjoying beautiful weather and that “there were a lot of pedestrians out ... enjoying the sunny afternoon.”
Trudeau said in a brief statement, "We’re monitoring the situation closely. Our hearts go out to anyone affected.”
In the aftermath of the incident, the country has not changed its terrorism alert level.
The carnage on Monday was reminiscent of deadly attacks by Islamic State supporters using vehicles that shook up Nice, France, Berlin, Barcelona, London and New York.
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