A 20-year-old driver has been charged after London Police Service officers say four pedestrians were struck and killed in the city’s northwest Sunday evening.
Emergency crews were called to the intersection of Hyde Park and South Carriage roads, south of Gainsborough Road, at around 8:40 p.m. with reports the vehicle collided with multiple pedestrians at the intersection.
“It was just absolutely something that you never want to see,” Paige Martin, who was driving to get gas as the crash occurred, told reporters through tears.
“My heart is just so broken for them today. I feel like this hasn’t sunk in for me and I’m just someone that I witnessed it, let alone the actual family and everybody involved.”
Martin said she was stopped at a red light while heading southbound down Hyde Park Road when she saw “a flash of black” and her own car shook. She said she saw a vehicle come over the median and it looked to her like it had come from the other side of the road.
“About five minutes later, after I got some gas, I headed back and that’s when I saw, after I came up over Sarnia Road, just cars backed up and there weren’t that many emergency vehicles yet but I could see in my rearview mirror that they were all coming from behind me,” Martin said.
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“Then it was just chaos and there were people everywhere and running, citizens trying to direct the emergency vehicles where to go and there was a lot of pointing and screaming and arms waving.”
Officers said a 74-year-old woman died at the scene. A 44-year-old woman, a 46-year-old man and a 15-year-old girl were rushed to hospital by paramedics, but they later died of their injuries. Family members requested the names of the victims be withheld due to privacy reasons.
A nine-year-old boy related to the deceased was also taken to hospital where he is being treated for serious, but non-life-threatening injuries.
The driver of the vehicle was subsequently arrested near the Cherryhill Village Mall at Cherryhill Boulevard and Oxford Street West, which is roughly a six-kilometre drive away from the collision scene.
Det. Supt. Paul Waight said the suspect was wearing “a vest that appeared to be like body armour” at the time of his arrest, and that the attack was intentional.
“There is evidence that this was a planned, premeditated act motivated by hate. It is believed that these victims were targeted because they were Muslim,” Waight said.
“There is no known previous connection between the suspect and the victims.”
The accused in the case, 20-year-old London resident Nathaniel Veltman, was charged with four counts of first-degree murder and a count of attempted murder. He appeared through an audio link in a London court on Monday. He was remanded into custody and scheduled to appear in court again on Thursday. The charges against Veltman haven’t been proven in court.
Meanwhile, officers closed portions of Hyde Park and South Carriage roads near the scene for approximately 20 hours in order to gather evidence.
London Mayor Ed Holder called the act one of “mass murder” during a news conference with reporters Monday afternoon, saying many hearts are “broken” after Sunday’s incident.
“This was an act of mass murder, perpetrated against Muslims, against Londoners, and rooted in unspeakable hatred. The magnitude of such hatred can make one question who we are as a city and who we are as Londoners,” he said.
“It’s up to us – all of us – to answer that question through not only our words, but our actions. We can say, ‘This isn’t who we are,’ and I know that to be true. Words, though, are not enough. We must demonstrate, behave, and act on those words.”
Meanwhile, anyone with information relating to the incident was asked to call police at 519-661-5515 ext. 5842 or Crime Stoppers anonymously at 1-800-222-8477.
— With files from Jacquelyn LeBel