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Identifying 10 killed in Toronto van attack could take days, coroner says

TORONTO - It could take days to confirm the identities of 10 people killed in a van attack in northern Toronto that left 14 others injured, Ontario's chief coroner said as a forensics team sought records and information to assist in the grim task.

The number of fatalities and the circumstances of the incident make it challenging to quickly identify those who died, and the coroner's office is being particularly careful to avoid any possible confusion, Dr. Dirk Huyer said.

The Monday afternoon rampage "occurred in a very busy pedestrian area and it occurred over significant distance," he said in a news conference Tuesday.

"Most of the time people have identification on them and that gives us the first information as to who that person may be. So from that information we then reach out to family members and we have done that." he said.

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A man lights a candle at a vigil on Yonge Street in Toronto, Tuesday, April 24, 2018. Ten people were killed and 14 were injured in Monday's deadly attack in which a van struck pedestrians in northern Toronto. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Galit Rodan

A man lights a candle at a vigil on Yonge Street in Toronto, Tuesday, April 24, 2018. Ten people were killed and 14 were injured in Monday's deadly attack in which a van struck pedestrians in northern Toronto. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Galit Rodan

TORONTO - It could take days to confirm the identities of 10 people killed in a van attack in northern Toronto that left 14 others injured, Ontario's chief coroner said as a forensics team sought records and information to assist in the grim task.

The number of fatalities and the circumstances of the incident make it challenging to quickly identify those who died, and the coroner's office is being particularly careful to avoid any possible confusion, Dr. Dirk Huyer said.

The Monday afternoon rampage "occurred in a very busy pedestrian area and it occurred over significant distance," he said in a news conference Tuesday.

"Most of the time people have identification on them and that gives us the first information as to who that person may be. So from that information we then reach out to family members and we have done that." he said.

"We've asked them to help us to develop a method to scientifically confirm those identifications and those confirmations will be through dental X-ray comparison, potentially fingerprint comparison or, if necessary, DNA comparison. So we are actively obtaining records."

Visual identification is not sufficient since people look different when they have died, and especially when they suffered serious injuries, he said.

When asked if the coroner's office was lacking the necessary resources to complete the work quickly, Huyer said additional help had been called in and arrived Monday.

"Frankly, it takes time to get records and it takes time to meet families and that's not a resource issue," he said.

Alek Minassian, a 25-year-old from Richmond Hill, Ont., was charged on Tuesday with 10 counts of first-degree murder and 13 counts of attempted murder.

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