Toronto Van Plows Along Sidewalk, Killing 9 in ‘Pure Carnage’

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.

One witness, who identified himself as Ali, 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.”

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The episode spread sorrow and fear through Canada’s largest metropolis.

Credit
Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press, via Associated Press

A bystander who rushed to help the pedestrian who was struck while crossing the street said that “pieces of the van went flying everywhere.”

Meaghan Gray, a spokeswoman for the Toronto police, said the authorities received a report at 1:30 p.m. on Monday that a white van had mounted the curb near Yonge Street and Finch Avenue West. The driver was in custody roughly 90 minutes later, she said.

Stephan Powell, a spokesman for the Toronto Fire Department said there were “numerous casualties” after pedestrians were “hit by vehicle at least two locations.”

Ms. Gray said she did not know in how many places pedestrians were struck. Constable Jenifferjit Sidhu, another police spokeswoman, said that the authorities did not know “the cause or reason for the collision.”

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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,” Dr. Cass said.

In a statement on Monday, John Tory, the mayor of Toronto, reached out to those affected and to the emergency medical workers. He called the episode “tragic” and said he was heading to Mel Lastman Square, just south of where the collision took place, for an update.

Justin Trudeau, the prime minister, also spoke out. “We’re monitoring the situation closely,” he said.

Videos from bystanders appeared to show the arrest of the van driver, a balding middle-aged man standing beside an extensively damaged white Ryder rental van.

In a video posted on The Toronto Star, the man, who appeared to be pointing an object at the police, is heard yelling, “Kill me” as a Toronto police officer demanded 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.”

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A rented van on a sidewalk about a mile from where several pedestrians were killed.

Credit
Aaron Vincent Elkaim/The Canadian Press, via Associated Press

He was then told by the police to cooperate or he would be shot. “Shoot me in the head,” the man yelled.

Phil Gurksi, who worked for Canada’s intelligence service for 14 years, said that although the police had established no motive for the driver’s actions, they appeared to have been intentional.

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“What we know is that it was deliberate — this is not an accident,” said Mr. Gurksi, who retired from in 2015 and now runs Borealis Threat and Risk Consulting. “It’s not a heart attack.”

The van was stopped about a mile south of where the episode took place, said Dan Fox, a civil servant who passed the vehicle on his way to work on Monday. He said there was “significant damage to the side of the van.”

“It looked like the side of the van had scraped along the side of the building,” Mr. Fox said in a phone interview, the sound of police sirens wailing behind him. “The driver-side door was open, but I didn’t see anyone in or around the van.”

He said Yonge Street, which runs through the North York section of Toronto, appeared to be closed between the scene of the episode and the location of the damaged van.

Ian Austen reported from Ottawa, and Liam Stack from New York. Christine Hauser, Maya Salam, Rick Gladstone and Rukmini Callimachi contributed reporting from New York.


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Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/04/23/world/toronto-van.html

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