A man plowed a van into pedestrians along a busy sidewalk in Toronto on Monday, killing nine people and injuring 16 in one of the most violent incidents in recent Canadian history.
Officials declined to answer questions about what motivated the driver to steer his white Ryder rental van into a crowd, in the incident that took just before 1:30 pm local time, Reuters reports.
But they said the man was in custody.
At least one witness described the driver as appearing to deliberately target victims on his roughly mile-long rampage on a sidewalk during lunch hour, according to media reports.
“This is going to be a long investigation,” Toronto Deputy Chief Peter Yuen told a news conference after disclosing the death toll.
A Reuters witness saw at least two tarp-covered bodies at the site of the incident. Five people were said to be in critical condition at Sunnybrook Health Services Centre on Monday afternoon.
Canada’s public safety minister, Ralph Goodale, declined to comment on what may have motivated the attack.
“The investigation is at a stage where no further information can be confirmed at this point,” Goodale told a news conference.
Ryder System spokeswoman Claudia Panfil confirmed that one of the company’s rental vehicles had been involved and said the company was cooperating with authorities.
There have been a string of deadly vehicle attacks in the United States and Europe, including an Oct. 31 attack in New York that killed eight. Islamic State militant group encourages its supporters to use vehicles for attacks.
“It’s unprecedented,” said John Flengas, acting superintendent in the city’s paramedic services. “We’ve never seen anything like this in the city of Toronto.”
The incident occurred about 30 kms away from the site where Toronto is hosting a Group of Seven foreign ministers meeting.
A man who gave his name as Ali told CNN he saw the van and that the driver appeared to have been targeting people.
“This person was intentionally doing this, he was killing everybody,” the man said. “He kept going, he kept going. People were getting hit, one after another.”
He said a number of the victims were older people.
At least one person was struck outside on the sidewalk outside an Anglican church, north of where the van came to rest in front of a currency exchange in a condominium tower.
– Contact us at [email protected]