Nine people are dead and 16 are injured after the driver of a van plowed into multiple pedestrians in Toronto on Monday, Acting Police Chief Peter Yuen said.
The driver, who authorities said hit pedestrians on a busy street north of downtown Toronto, was in custody after leaving a trail of destruction stretching up to a mile, officials said. The van has been located, Toronto Police media representative Gary Long said.
The suspect was previously known to Toronto authorities, according to a US law enforcement official briefed on the matter. Toronto police have not released the driver’s name.
Authorities also have not said publicly if the vehicle collisions were intentional. But a law enforcement official briefed on the situation in Toronto told CNN the incident is believed to be deliberate.
Yuen said police received calls around 1:30 p.m. that a vehicle was driving on Yonge Street, striking pedestrians. The collisions happened in the North York area at the intersection of Yonge Street and Finch Avenue, police said.
The suspect covered between a half-mile and a mile in the vehicle, said Stephen Powell, district chief for Toronto Fire.
Ten patients were transported Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre and two were declared dead at the hospital, said Dr. Dan Cass, executive vice-president and chief medical officer. He said five patients were in critical condition and three were in serious condition, Cass said.
Cass said the patients suffered a range of injuries, some serious.
Toronto Mayor John Tory praised first responders to the collisions. “This is a time when the community should come together,” he said.
Tory said he hopes the city remembers it is one of inclusion.
In recent years, individuals have driven vehicles into crowds of pedestrians in fatal attacks in major cities including Barcelona, New York, London and Nice, France.
Chelsea Luelo, who works at Capriccio Café, saw the incident and said she thought the driver was hitting people intentionally.
“It looked like he was going straight, halfway through the sidewalk,” Luelo said.
‘Pandemonium broke loose’
Mary Tan shared two photos showing people injured in the incident.
A witness, Raj Irshad, said he saw multiple bodies on the ground.
Irshad works at an Esso gas station about a block from where the van is reported to have driven onto the sidewalk. He said he did not see the initial collision but saw the aftermath. He also saw multiple emergency vehicles in front of his gas station.
One witness told CNN network partner CTV that he was out for a cigarette when he saw the van hit a man walking through the intersection.
“And then, just pandemonium broke loose, just everyone was going crazy,” he said. The vehicle was going 60 to 70 kph, he estimated.
One witness, who was driving at the time, said he at first thought the driver was having a heart attack until he saw the white van speeding and striking people on the sidewalk.
“He’s just hitting people one by one, going down,” the witness said. “It’s a nightmare.”
Bersat Noorai, the manager of Taftan Kebab, said he saw the white van hit the bench in front of his restaurant. He then ran outside and saw two or three people on the ground.
One man, who appeared to be in his early 20s, was losing a lot of blood, and Noorai said he brought him a towel and water and called 911.
‘She’s face down on the concrete’
Another witness, Christian Ali, said he came onto the scene and saw bodies and evidence of the destruction.
He first saw a man unconscious at the side of the road and figured it was a terrible accident after also noticing debris from a car.
“Two blocks over, I saw another gentleman unconscious in the middle of the road and a policeman leaning over him holding his neck,” Ali said.
About a block up, he saw a woman who looked like she had died.
“She’s face down on the concrete, a lot of fluid coming out of her head,” Ali said.
“About 20 seconds after that, I came upon a crowd of about 30 people … probably about five people on the ground, bleeding,” he said, adding that pedestrians were performing CPR.
Prime Minister Trudeau: ‘Our hearts go out to anyone affected’
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said early Monday afternoon that he was just learning about the incident.
“Our hearts go out to anyone affected. We’re obviously going to have more to learn and more to say in the coming hours,” he said.
Toronto Mayor John Tory said there was a tragic incident on Yonge Street.
“My thoughts are with those affected by this incident and the front-line responders who are working to help those injured,” he said.
CNN’s Carma Hassan, Darran Simon, Paul Murphy, Ellie Kaufman, Isabella Gomez and Shimon Prokupecz contributed to this report.
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