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Grief over deadly Toronto van attack sinks in days after rampage

Last Updated Apr 26, 2018 at 3:20 pm PST

Tributes are seen on a memorial at Yonge St. and Finch Ave. in Toronto on Thursday, April 26, 2018 for the victims of Monday's deadly van attack. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Cole Burston

TORONTO – Grief over the deadly van attack that took place on the streets of Toronto is truly sinking in as the public learns more about the 10 people killed in the rampage, mourners said Thursday.

Three days after a van careened down a stretch of Yonge Street, striking pedestrians in its path, city residents were still gathering at the site to lay flowers, shed tears and pay tribute.

One of them was Kristi Wing, who works in the area and had seen paramedics treating patients and covering those who were beyond help in the moments after Monday’s incident. The tragedy feels more real now that victims’ personal stories are coming to light, she said.

“I saw bodies and now there are names and faces to them,” she said.

The makeshift memorial to those who lost their lives in the incident continued to grow Thursday as bouquets, candles and written notes were added. The messages, written in numerous languages, included the sentiments “rest in peace” and “spread love, not hate.”

Nil Adjei, another visitor to the memorial, said he used to live in the area years ago and was drawn to the site after the attack.

“I felt it’s my duty to come over and pay tribute,” he said.

Authorities have not named any of those killed, saying identifying the victims will take time given the size of the crime scene and the scope of the probe.

But other sources have identified some of the dead. They ranged in age from their 20s to their 90s, hailed from as far away as Jordan and South Korea, and are remembered for everything from their passion for cooking to their devotion to their young children.

Social media posts from various co-workers identified one of the victims as Chulmin (Eddie) Kang, a chef at a downtown Toronto steakhouse.

“It hurts knowing I won’t be able to see your bright smile every weekend, or hear you say ‘Hi’ to everyone in your energetic voice,” coworker Mailee Ly wrote in a Facebook post.

“I don’t think you knew the touch and influence you had on everyone … simply because of your kind nature and passion for cooking. Times like this, it goes to show that by simply being a kind person, you can have a further reach than you ever know.”

On Thursday evening, the University of Toronto confirmed one of its students was among the deceased, though it did not release a name.

“We are deeply saddened that a member of our community has died as a result of this terrible incident,” university president Meric Gertler said in a written statement. “We mourn the loss of our student and want those affected to know that they have the support of the university.”

Others killed include Renuka Amarasingha, a Toronto school board employee who was the sole caregiver for her seven-year-old child, and Betty Forsyth, believed to be in her 90s, who was described as a lively person who loved to feed animals on her walks through the neighbourhood around the scene of the attack.

The victims also include Jordanian citizen Munir Alnajjar, who had recently travelled to the city to visit his son; Anne Marie D’Amico, an investment company worker with a love of volunteering; and Dorothy Sewell, an 80-year-old grandmother who was passionate about local sports.

Two unidentified Korean nationals and an unnamed student from Seneca College were also killed.

At least one not-for-profit group said it’s mobilizing to meet the diverse needs of mourners with direct ties to Monday’s attack.

Victim Services Toronto offers emotional and social supports to those impacted by crimes or other tragedies, according to Executive Director Bonnie Levine.

She said establishing a sense of community around a person in mourning is a critical first step.

“One of the things that we really want to do very quickly is to mobilize the person’s natural support system,” she said. “So we’ll say, ‘Is there family or friends or neighbours that we can call for you? Is there anything that we can do?'”

The organization’s volunteers speak 35 languages between them, she said, ensuring supports are available to immigrants or visitors from outside the country if necessary.

In addition to the 10 people who died, police say 14 others were injured in the attack allegedly carried out by 25-year-old Alek Minassian of Richmond Hill, Ont.

Minassian has been charged with 10 counts of first-degree murder and 13 counts of attempted murder, with police anticipating a 14th count in the coming days.

Toronto police did not provide updates Thursday on the ongoing investigation into Minassian’s activities, though Chief Mark Saunders issued a statement lauding the force’s response to the attack.

Monday’s events have prompted unprecedented interest from international law enforcement agencies, he said.

“I am contacted almost daily from other police executives from around the world as they express interest in what is happening here,” Saunders said. “This week, record numbers of calls have been pouring in to offer support, express condolences and compliment the actions of all emergency service personnel.”

A city fundraiser dubbed TorontoStrong had raised more than $893,000 to support the victims and their families by Thursday evening.