TORONTO (Reuters) - Shoes, torn clothing and bodies covered with tarpaulins were strewn across one of Toronto’s busiest streets on Monday, turning a 15-block area into a ghost town after a van struck and killed 10 people and injured 15.
Young Lee, a 56-year-old attorney, looked out of his third-floor office window to see that food trucks had returned to the neighbourhood on one of the first warm days of the year.
Then he realised something was wrong: Two people were on the ground next to a truck, frantically being treated by medics were performing CPR. There was blood on the ground, people were dishevelled and clothes were thrown around.
“There was stuff going on all up and down the sidewalks,” Lee said by telephone. “It was surreal to see this happen on the first bright spring day in Toronto.”
He quickly learnt he had seen the victims of one of Canada’s rare mass attacks. A white van had ploughed down people walking along Yonge Street, killing 10 and injuring 15.
Steve Cortesi witnessed the carnage when he stepped out of his building for a smoke.
“I turned up my head and saw a van hit a man walking through the intersection,” Cortesi told Toronto TV news channel CP 24.
“It was a green light. He actually rolled into the road. I ran into the middle of the road and stopped all the cars. And then pandemonium broke loose, everyone was going crazy.”
Police received the first notifying calls at about 1:30 p.m. Half an hour later an officer apprehended a suspect later identified as Alek Minassian, a 25-year-old man from the Toronto suburb of Richmond Hill.
The usually bustling street quickly turned into a taped-off crime scene, with shocked pedestrians murmuring into their mobile phones, stopping to take photos of tarpaulin-shrouded corpses beyond the police tape.
Adrian, another witness who declined to provide his surname, said he saw the tail end of the killing spreee.
“I’m still shaking,” he said, holding back tears, more than an hour after the incident.
Downtown Toronto’s iconic CN Tower, which is normally lit up in the evening, went dark on Monday evening.
Aras Reisi, who lives nearby, heard people were hurt and rushed to the scene with friends, figuring his first-aid training would help.
“As a human being, when you see someone injured, you have to rush in and help,” he said.
The community was strong, he added. “We’re going to get through this.”
The majority of the victims have yet to be identified.
Reporting by Jim Finkle, Ann Mehler Paperny and Nichola Saminather in Toronto; Editing by Clarence Fernandez