Tragedy In Toronto as Van HitsPedestrians Near Busy Intersection: Nine Dead and 16 Injured
Police have confirmed that nine people are dead and 16 injured after a van mounted a sidewalk in north Toronto, crashing into pedestrians. A man, said to be the driver of the van, is in custody after a brief standoff with police.
The incident took place near the intersections of Yonge Street and Finch Avenue East near 1.30 p.m. The area has been closed to traffic, and transit services in the vicinity have been suspended.
Toronto Paramedic Services spokeswoman Kim McKinnon said personnel had treated an unknown number of injuries, but declined to provide further detail. Several bodies covered by blankets could be seen in the area.
Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre in Toronto says it has received 10 victims from the scene, with two pronounced dead on arrival at the hospital. Five more are in a critical condition, with a further two in serious conditions.
Dr. Dan Cass, Executive Vice President and Chief Medical Executive at Sunnybrook, addressed media at 5:10 p.m. He described how, shortly after the incident occurred, Toronto’s lead trauma centre was put on code orange. Labs, blood banks, ICU and operating rooms all prepped to receive 10 of the victims, two of whom arrived without vitals and were pronounced dead.
Additional critical care nurses have since been called in. All of the victims transported to Sunnybrook were adults. Dr. Cass called the tragedy “unprecedented,” but something hospital staff drill for. He praised the efforts of EMS and the Sunnybrook team, and expressed his sincere condolences for families. Not all of the injured have been identified, and not all the families have been notified.
Const. Caroline de Kloet did not provide details on the suspect’s identity or any charges that might be pending.
“We don’t know the cause or the reason for the collision, but we can confirm that the van has been located and the driver is in custody,” de Kloet said in an interview.
Eye-witnesses to the incident describe a scene of devastation.
Phil Zullo was driving north on Yonge Street early Monday afternoon when he said he observed police chasing a vehicle.
Moments later he said he realized why.
“I must have seen about five, six people being resuscitated by bystanders and by ambulance drivers,” Zullo said. “It was awful. Brutal. Just people everywhere. People — shoes and shirts and ball caps on the floor.”
Photos from the scene show paramedics treating several people on blood-stained sidewalks.
“I thought he had a heart attack or something so I was trying to chase him down in a way, tying to catch up,” one witness said at the scene. “He was going 70-80 clicks, he was just hitting people one by one…it was a nightmare.”
Andy Jibb was working in his home office on the 27th floor of a condo building near Yonge and Empress Ave. when the van went by.
“I just heard screaming and I ran out to my balcony and I saw the van, still heading south on the sidewalk,” he said. “I heard something being hit, and people screaming. From my balcony I could see five or six people on the ground.”
“There was a body at this corner, and another one,” Jibb said, pointing to Yonge and Empress. “And there was like four bodies in Mel Lastman Square. “Three of them are still there right now and one of them was put in an ambulance.”
“I could see the van heading down south, and it was like he had the brakes on. I could hear the tires squealing. It was like brake torque — like he was pumping on the brakes and the gas at the same time. I’ve been here for 14 years, and you don’t see anything like this happen.”
Jibb said he couldn’t tell from his viewpoint whether it was an accident or deliberate.
A visibly shaken Amir Farokhpour, 28, said he was taking a break from his furniture store job when he saw the van coming toward the sidewalk on the east side of Yonge, about two blocks south of Finch, where he was walking.
“He on purpose hit this guy here,” he said, referring to a body. The victim appeared to be in his 40s.
“He (a pedestrian trying to cross the street) flew, I would say, a good four or five metres. So he hit him pretty hard.”
“Then he tried to hit some ladies right here,” he said, pointing to the sidewalk in front of his store. “But he couldn’t hit them because there was a curb here.”
“I saw the van heading south and I heard bangs, so I’m guessing he hit hit some other people. I was here for the guy but he was dead in five, six seconds. I tried helping him, but he was dead. There was not much we could do.”
“It seemed like he was doing it on purpose, for sure. The whole front of the van was pretty badly damaged, so I’m pretty sure he hit some other people before he got here.”
“It’s hard. It’s the first time I’ve seen a dead body. I couldn’t feel my legs and hands before. I still can’t feel my hands. I was just going to the convenience store. It could have been me, you know,” Farokhpour said.
A video posted to Twitter from the scene shows the suspect in front of the van after the collisions, pointing what appears to be a gun. A lone police officer gets out of a police car in front of the suspect and points a gun at him.
“Get down. Get down or you will be shot,” the officer is heard to say.
The suspect shouts something inaudible, before moving towards the officer who continues to tell him to get down.
The man then throws down what he had been holding and gets down as the officer approaches and handcuffs him.