Identities of 10 Killed in Toronto Van Attack Will Take Days to Confirm: Coroner

Identities of 10 Killed in Toronto Van Attack Will Take Days to Confirm: Coroner

By Michelle McQuigge, The Canadian Press

Toronto Van Attack
Police secure an area around a covered body in Toronto after a van mounted a sidewalk crashing into a number of pedestrians on Monday, April 23, 2018. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette)

TORONTO – Investigators probing the deadly van attack that killed 10 people and injured 14 others in north Toronto have not yet identified any of those who died, Ontario’s chief coroner said Tuesday.

Dirk Huyer said confirming the identities is a time-consuming process complicated by the fact that the attack took place over at least a one-kilometre stretch of one of Toronto’s busiest streets.

Huyer said investigators all sympathize with the families of the deceased, but said accuracy must be the top priority.

“We’re always balancing the need to know and the desire to know quickly to ensure that we have 100 per cent accuracy,” he said. “That takes time and that time can be very frustrating.”

One victim of the attack has been identified by a Toronto city councillor as Anne Marie D’Amico, who worked at a U.S.-based investment firm.

A South Korean news agency said two unnamed Korean nationals were also among those killed, and cited government officials as saying three others were unaccounted for. The Jordanian embassy in Ottawa said one of its citizens was among the dead, but did not provide details.

Seneca College said a female student was also among those killed, but did not identify her.

Toronto police Det. Sgt. Graham Gibson said the homicide team is leading the investigation into Monday afternoon’s attack, which saw a van barrel down sidewalks packed with pedestrians, striking dozens in its path.

Gibson said 25-year-old Alek Minassian, who was arrested minutes after the attack, has been charged with 10 counts of first-degree murder and 13 counts of attempted murder. A 14th attempted murder charge is expected before the end of the day, he said.

Gibson said Minassian allegedly carried out the rampage in a rented van he acquired just north of Toronto.

Police remain on the scene investigating the incident, though officials said some of the streets closed since the attack will reopen by day’s end.

Near the area where Monday’s carnage unfolded, well-wishers wept as they struggled to make sense of the violence that shattered the peace of a usually bustling neighbourhood that regulars describe as a safe haven.

“You feel for this community considering that you live here, you shop here, you laugh with the people here, you go out here,” said neighbourhood resident Don-Antonio Andrew. “It’s a very traumatic time for this area and for your neighbourhood.”

Andrew, who said one pedestrian got hit directly in front of his apartment building, came to lay flowers at the scene in a show of solidarity with the neighbourhood he described as one of the best he’s lived in since he moved to Canada.

Claire Hurley, who was making her own floral contribution to the makeshift memorial, said the fatal attack was difficult to reconcile with the safe community she’s come to know.

“This always seems like a really safe neighbourhood, so it was a big shock,” she said while wiping back tears. “Everyone was out enjoying the sunshine, and enjoying life. I guess you just have to … enjoy every day.”

The memorial was set up on the east side of Yonge Street, just below Finch Avenue, where the deadly incident took place.

Across the city from the crime scene, Minassian made a brief appearance in a packed courtroom to learn the charges filed against him. Clad in a white jumpsuit, he looked around and said little other than his name before charges were announced. His next court appearance is currently slated for May 10.

A man police identified as Minassian’s father was also present in court.

When asked if he had a statement to offer to the victims’ families, the man simply replied “I’m sorry.”

Little is known about Minassian, but the Canadian Armed Forces said he served a very brief stint from late August to late October 2017.

“He did not complete his recruit training and requested to be voluntarily released from the CAF after 16 days of recruit training,” spokeswoman Jessica Lamirande said in a statement, declining to provide further details.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said that while the investigation is still underway, there is no evidence to suggest there was a “national security element” to the incident. Calling it a “senseless attack and a horrific tragedy,” Trudeau called for a show of support for those affected as well as a city in mourning.

“The entire community of Toronto has shown strength and determination in the face of this tragedy,” Trudeau said. “All Canadians stand united with Toronto today.”

Toronto Mayor John Tory echoed that call and said the city will recover.

“Toronto was a great city yesterday, it is a great city today and it will be a great city tomorrow,” he said. “The people who call this city home are shaken right now but we are not broken and we will not be broken.”

At the Ontario legislature, members of all three provincial parties held a moment of silence and expressed their grief and support for the first responders at the scene.

Premier Kathleen Wynne said that while legislators were all reeling from Monday’s incident, they felt it was important to carry on with the democratic process.

“We have to ensure that this kind of senseless act doesn’t define us,” Wynne said. “We owe it to the people of the province to reassure them that this is a safe place that we live in, because it is.”

U.S. President Donald Trump offered his condolences Tuesday morning.

“I also want to express our deepest sympathies to the Canadian people following the horrendous tragedy in Toronto that claimed so many innocent lives,” Trump said at a White House ceremony. “Our hearts are with the grieving families in Canada.”

— With files from Maija Kappler and Liam Casey

CP - The Canadian Press