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Toronto collision leaves 9 dead, 16 injured; suspect in custody

Posted at 4:16 PM, Apr 23, 2018
and last updated 2018-04-23 18:16:08-04

The driver of a white van collided with multiple pedestrians on a busy street north of downtown Toronto on Monday, leaving numerous people injured along a trail of destruction stretching up to a mile, officials said.

Nine people are dead and 16 are injured, police said.

A law enforcement official briefed on the situation in Toronto tells CNN the incident is believed to be deliberate.

A suspect is in custody and the van has been located, Toronto Police media representative Gary Long said.

Seven patients from the incident were received at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre. The hospital was unable to provide details on the severity of those injuries.

Stephen Powell, district chief for Toronto Fire, confirmed that there have been multiple casualties. A large presence of Toronto fire, police and EMS personnel are on the scene, Powell said.

The incident happened in the North York area at the intersection of Yonge Street and Finch Avenue, police said. Powell said the suspect covered between a half-mile and a mile in the vehicle.

It was not immediately clear if the vehicle collisions were intentional. In recent years, individuals have driven vehicles into crowds of pedestrians in fatal attacks in major cities including Barcelona, New York, London and Nice.

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.

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.