Ottawa police are looking for a man who stole an idling minivan with two young children sitting inside, then drove through Hintonburg streets, crashing into snowbanks and even a house before finally abandoning the van and fleeing on foot.

It all started at about 7:50 p.m. Saturday when two adults entered a business on Booth Street, leaving a 17-year old teen and two sleeping children in the idling 2003 grey Toyota Sienna. The teen then joined his parents in the store, after which police said a man entered the van and drove off.

Witnesses told police the van was almost immediately involved in a collision with a car across the street from the store.

At 7:56 p.m. police got another call after a collision on the 100 block of Bayview Avenue.

Hintonburg residents said they saw the minivan careening through neighbourhood streets. The minivan travelled north of Bayview Avenue striking a vehicle pulling out of Tom Brown Arena, according to one witness.

The minivan then turned left onto Scott Street, crashed into several snowbanks and turned left again on Hilda Street.

Several witnesses viewed crashes

Jacqueline Garcia was in her house at the corner of Scott and Hilda streets when she was startled.

"I heard a bang.  A few seconds later I saw a car crossing Scott Street up onto the corner over here — he hit the snowbank," said Garcia.

"He was going really slow because the car wasn't moving anymore.  The whole front was smashed and the tires were crooked and the smoke was coming out of the car," she said. 

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A piece of a vehicle lies near Tom Brown Arena after a hit and run police believe is connected to the theft of a van where children were still inside. (CBC)

Garcia said the man behind the vehicle was laughing manically and his eyes were red.

The vehicle took a right on O'Meara Street before coming to a sudden stop when it slammed into a house on Garland Street next to Ranjan Rasaili's convienience store.

Rasaili and others who were passing by helped the children into the store where emergency crews quickly attended to them. Both children were unharmed, said central district Staff Sgt. James Pietrkiewicz.

Rasaili said he urged the driver to stay, but he quickly limped away.

Police are looking for a man between the ages of 30 and 40, standing about six feet tall with a thin build and short dark hair. He was wearing jeans and a brown or greenish jacket.

The central district investigations unit is handling the case. Anyone with information is asked to call 613-236-1222, ext. 5166, or Crime Stoppers at 613-233-8477.

Police are also reminding the public to never leave children in an unattended or unlocked vehicle.