Ten killed, 15 injured as van rams into pedestrians in Canada

Ten people are dead and 15 others are injured after a van driver plowed into a number of pedestrians Monday in the Yonge Street and Finch Avenue area of North York in Toronto.

One suspect is in custody.

CBC News has confirmed that Alek Minassian, a 25-year-old Richmond Hill, Ont., man, is the alleged driver in the attack. His LinkedIn profile identifies him as a student at Seneca College.

Government officials briefed on the investigation so far say the suspect is not associated with any organized terrorist group and he does not represent a larger threat to national security.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly about the investigation.

Toronto police Deputy Chief Peter Yuen told reporters police have mobilized all available resources and that officers expect to be at the scene for a number of days to come.

“This is going to be a long investigation,” Yuen said. There were numerous witnesses and surveillance cameras in the area, he said.

Police were called to the Yonge and Finch area for a report of a crash around 1:30 p.m. after a van driving southbound on Yonge Street mounted the curb and hit pedestrians on the sidewalk before being stopped by police.

Police said the driver at times drove in both north and southbound lanes along a nearly kilometre-long strip over the course of the attack. The suspect was arrested 26 minutes after police received the 911 call, police Chief Mark Saunders said.

“There were a lot of pedestrians out enjoying, a lot of witnesses out enjoying the sunny afternoon,” Yuen said. Police are establishing two hotlines — one for victims and their families, and the other for witnesses to call in information related
to the incident.

A witness said separately that he had seen at least four bodies lying covered on the ground and that the people hit included a man who was crossing the street and others on the sidewalk.

Amir Bahmeyeh, a student, was in the area at the time of the attack.

“I saw the crazy van, like a rental van, hitting the people … one after one,” he said. “I’m sure it was like a terrorist attack because he drove really fast, like crazy.”

“I almost had a heart attack. When I came here people told me it was a safe country and that’s why I stayed here,” said the student, who said he’d come from Iran.

“Now, I saw the accident, maybe I go back my country,” he said.

Police said victims have been taken to various hospitals across the city.

In a tweet, Sunnybrook Hospital said 10 victims were transported to its trauma centre. Two of those are among the dead, while five are in critical condition, two are in serious condition and one is in fair condition. The hospital’s emergency department has been locked down as a precaution, it said.

In a statement, Ryder, the company from which the van was rented, said it was co-operating fully with authorities.

Speaking at a news conference Monday evening, Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale said that he’s consulted with senior security officials and police agencies, and based on present information there appears to be no national security connection in this case.

“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 available at this time,” the federal public safety minister said. Canada’s threat level remains unchanged, Goodale told reporters earlier.

Chief Saunders was careful to say terrorism hasn’t been dismissed as a possibility, but that there is currently no evidence to support that notion. The suspect’s motivation is still being investigated, but he said there’s nothing to suggest the case affects the “national-security footprint.”

The police chief said there was nothing to indicate the suspect was armed at the time of arrest. (Courtesy CBC News)