TORONTO — In the course of a few minutes, from the moment a white van barrelled down a sidewalk on Yonge Street to the moment the alleged driver was in handcuffs, the lives of dozens of families were changed forever.
Many who witnessed the horrific events of that fateful Monday afternoon are still struggling to make sense of the tragedy, which left 10 people dead and 16 others injured.
Alek Minassian, a 25-year-old from Richmond Hill, Ont., is charged with 10 counts of murder and 13 counts of attempted murder in the incident.
Here is how the attack unfolded as told by witnesses.
Yonge Street and Finch Avenue
Konstantin Goulich walked out of his apartment to find emergency crews filling the intersection.
“That’s when I saw the body lying under the blanket. It was the southwest corner of Yonge and Finch,” he said.
As he walked further south along Yonge Street, he passed another body, then another.
“It was a very difficult picture to see,” Goulich said.
5444 Yonge Street
Mandana Kanani was sitting outside her dry cleaning shop when she saw the van speed along the sidewalk and run over a fire hydrant before continuing southbound.
“After a few seconds I saw four bodies,” Kanani said. “I feel bad because I couldn’t help the people. I was afraid. I thought maybe it (is illegal) to go and touch them and help them.”
The body of an elderly woman was found directly in front of Mario Martella’s hair salon.
“It was like lightning,” Martella said of the van careening down the sidewalk past his shop. “I saw a woman right out here. But I don’t know if she was hit here or was dragged.”
Customers from Martella’s shop ran out to help but there was nothing they could do for her, Martella said.
“It’s terrible, terrible. It will remain in my mind for I don’t know how long,” he said.
5372 Yonge Sreet
Noorani Barsat, manager of Taftan Kebab, said he raced outside after hearing a commotion and found a badly injured man lying nearby.
“I just ran over there, brought water and a towel to that injured man, but he was unconscious, bleeding, one hand (looked) broken,” Barsat said.
Henry Yang drove behind the van for about 300 metres, as it struck newspaper boxes and signposts.
“I kept on following him, honking the horn non-stop … trying to make a commotion to let pedestrians know something was going on,” Yang said.
“I saw he hit somebody, (as the van was) zig-zagging on the sidewalk,” Yang said.
5221 Yonge Street
Multiple shop and restaurant workers in the area, who did not want to provide their names, say a man was hit by the van directly outside the Symposium Cafe and flew or several metres, to the south-east corner of Yonge Street and Parkview Avenue.
Dainis Cevers was driving to pick his brother up at a nearby church when the white van cut in front of him, to head southbound in the northbound lane, and appeared to target a man crossing the road.
The van hit a man and accelerated, Cevers said.
“The guy flew up all the way to the end of that sidewalk…about five or six metres,” an emotional Cevers said moments after the incident as he looked at the body hidden by an orange sheet.
The man’s shoes rested on the road metres from him.
Near North York Centre (Yonge Street and Empress Avenue)
Henry Yang, who was driving behind the white van as it headed southbound on Yonge Street said traffic slowed him down as he neared North York Centre. “That’s where I saw a lot of casualties,” Yang said.
“It’s tragic to see something like that,” he added. “I saw people being run over, thrown in the air, blood gushing out. It’s shocking, it can happen anywhere.”
Many of the people hit, he said, were walking the same direction as the van, so they didn’t see it coming.
4962 Yonge Street
Staff at a nearby government office saw the aftermath of the attack.
“We saw pedestrians trying to resuscitate people, then EMS came and took over,” one of the staff, Kristi Wing, said. “Three of them obviously weren’t going to make it and we saw them just put orange blankets over the bodies.”
The hardest in the days since has been learning the identities of the people who died in the attack, Wing said.
“I saw bodies and now there are names and faces to them,” she said.
15 Poyntz Avenue
Shahnam Asghar was in town from Montreal. He was driving on the traffic-laden Yonge Street with a friend when he came across a badly damaged white cargo van and stopped.
“I saw a man getting out of his van, saw him pointing something while a police officer jumped out of his car,” Asghar said.
Asghar’s friend got out of the car and started saying “tape this, tape this, tape this.”
Both Asghar and his friend filmed the incident.
In the video, a man, allegedly Minassian, yells at the officer to kill him. The man is pointing a dark object at the officer, who was later identified as Const. Ken Lam — the lone officer on scene at the time.
“Shoot me in the head,” the man can be heard saying.
At one point the man begins walking toward the officer with the object pointing directly at Asghar, who ducks momentarily. Seconds later Lam holsters his gun and takes out his baton, which is when the man turns around and puts his hands on his head.
The officer asked Asghar’s friend to come and help direct traffic, while he called in the arrest. About 10 squad cars blazed to the scene soon after.
Then Asghar uploaded the video to Instagram, which went viral within minutes, he said.
— With files from Ben Singer
Peter Goffin and Liam Casey, The Canadian Press