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What happened to… Toronto van attack, part one

Police are seen near a damaged van in Toronto after a van mounted a sidewalk crashing into a number of pedestrians on Monday, April 23, 2018. The Supreme Court of Canada has dismissed a request to keep some information barred from public view in the Toronto van attack case.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Aaron Vincent Elkaim. AVE

On this episode of the Global News podcast What happened to…? Erica Vella revisits the story of the Toronto van attack.

Cathy Riddell has lived in Toronto’s Yonge and Finch neighbourhood for over six decades; it’s an area where she says she’s surrounded by familiar faces, shops and restaurants.

“I know the area very well. …. It’s a safe area,” she said.  “I know where all the stores are, I know where all the restaurants are. …. It’s home.”

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On a warm Monday in April 2018, Riddell was eager to be outside and run errands in the sunshine.

“It was like the first nice day of the year, and everybody was out on the streets, so I was quite happy to be out there,” she said.

“I was going to go to the library, pick up a book and then go to sit in the park and just enjoy the day.”

However, her day would be interrupted when a white rental van wreaked havoc in the neighbourhood she called home.

On April 23, 2018, a white rental van mounted the sidewalk at the southwest corner of the intersection of Yonge and Finch streets and travelled south for several blocks

Riddell was one of the victims who was struck by the van while walking on Yonge Street.

“The last thing you’re expecting is somebody to be cruising down the sidewalk,” she said.

“The worst (thing) I ever thought would come down the sidewalk would be a kid on a bike who was a little bit out of control or something.”

READ MORE: Toronto van attacker sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole for 25 years

At 1:27 p.m., the first call was made to 911. The attack would last approximately seven minutes as witnesses watched in horror while innocent bystanders got struck by the white van.

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Insp. Graham Gibson was on call as a detective sergeant for the Toronto police homicide squad when he started to hear chatter about the attack and decided to make his way to the scene to start the investigation, he said.

“One of our main goals was to get (injured) people off the sidewalks and street,” Gibson said. “It’s a horrible thing to have to see.”

“When you show up as a member of homicide, the other officers and members are looking at you to kind of bring some control to that scene,” Gibson said.

“Although you may feel it inside and I certainly did, you try to maintain your composure and focus on what your tasks are.”

After driving 2.2 km, the van stopped at Poyntz Avenue because a beverage splattered across the windshield, making it difficult for the driver to see. The driver got out of the van.

READ MORE: Toronto van attack victims, family ready themselves for sentencing hearing

Const. Ken Lam. was able to catch the driver and he was arrested at 1:34 p.m. by Toronto police.

The tragedy left the Toronto community heartbroken and grieving for the victims who lost their lives that day.

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Toronto van attacker sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole for 25 years – Jun 13, 2022

Riddell remembered very little about what happened the day of the attack.

“I was sort of in and out a little bit and I apparently talked to people, and I don’t remember any of that,” she said. “Somehow my mind blocked it all out.”

When Riddell’s brother tried to explain to her what had happened that day, she was in disbelief that anyone would do such a terrible thing.

“I just couldn’t believe that it could happen in this city … and that anybody could do that to total strangers,” Riddell said.

“It was such a shock that my mind just refused to accept the fact that it happened.”

On this episode of Global News’ What happened to…?, Erica Vella revisits the Toronto Van Attack to speak to a victim who was heavily impacted by the attack. She also speaks with Insp. Graham Gibson about his experience as a detective on the scene, and with reporter Catherine Mcdonald, who begins to unravel the motives behind the driver’s attack.

Contact:

Email: erica.vella@globalnews.ca

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