TORONTO — A least seven people are in hospital and a man is in custody after a van mounted a sidewalk in north Toronto, crashing into a number of pedestrians, authorities said Monday.
Investigators did not immediately confirm fatalities but eyewitnesses said bodies covered by blankets could be seen in the area. The incident took place around 1:30 p.m. near the intersection of Yonge Street and Finch Avenue East.
“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,” Const. Caroline de Kloet said in an interview.
De Kloet did not provide details on the suspect’s identity or any charges that might be pending.
The Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre said it had seven patients from the scene in its trauma centre. It also said the hospital’s emergency department had been locked down as an added precaution.
Eyewitnesses 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, and some of the bodies were completely covered by blankets.”
Photos from the scene show paramedics treating several people on a blood-stained sidewalk.
Toronto’s district fire chief said firefighters responding to the incident helped treat and triage patients at several locations.
“I believe patients were found at three different areas,” Stephan Powell said, noting he did not know how many people had been treated by firefighters.
Dozens of people stood in silence close to the crash scene as a police helicopter hovered overhead. Streets in the area were closed as dozens of police cruisers converged on the scene.
Toronto Mayor John Tory said he planned to join those on scene as he extended city support to the investigation of an incident he described as “very tragic.”
“My thoughts are with those affected by this incident and the frontline responders who are working to help those injured,” he said in a statement.
Political reaction began pouring in almost immediately, including from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
“Our hearts go out to everyone affected,” Trudeau said in Ottawa. “We are going to have more to learn and more to say in the coming hours.”
Premier Kathleen Wynne said her thoughts were with those affected.
“We’re following the situation closely — working with our federal and municipal partners. Thank you to the first responders caring for victims and witnesses.”
Ontario Progressive Conservative leader Doug Ford and New Democrat Leader Andrea Horwath also offered sympathies.
The Canadian Press