Toronto

'I hope she survived,' says man who aided victims of van attack

When Abdellah Massaoudi stepped out of his office on Monday to take one of his usual walks along Yonge Street, he never imagined that he’d be rushing to people’s aid and even trying to stop an elderly woman from bleeding to death.

Bystanders who administered first aid say they're still coming to grips with what happened

Police secure an area around a covered body in Toronto after a van mounted a sidewalk crashing into a number of pedestrians on Monday, April 23, 2018. (Nathan Denette/Canadian Pres)

When Abdellah Massaoudi stepped out of his office on Monday to take one of his usual walks along Yonge Street, he never imagined that he'd be rushing to people's aid and even trying to stop an elderly woman from bleeding to death.

As he walked north, Massaoudi stopped at the corner of Empress Avenue and waited for the lights to change. That's when he saw a Ryder van barrelling down the west side of Yonge Street near Finch Avenue. 

"It was striking people and I saw people flying everywhere in the air," said Massaoudi.

Soon the city would learn that 10 people had been killed and more than a dozen were injured. A 25-year-old man, Alek Minassian, would be arrested just minutes later. He would ultimately be charged with 10 counts of first-degree murder. 

But at that moment, all Massaoudi could see was people suffering in front of him.

He says he dialed 911 and ran over to help. On that corner, Massaoudi says, there were three women lying on the sidewalk. One had a head injury and someone else was already tending to her.

Massaoudi says he ran over to another woman who was bleeding.

Abdellah Massaoudi was out enjoying Monday's nice weather when he witnessed the van attack and rushed to help victims. (Abdellah Massaoudi)

"I saw an old lady… It was a very bad image. I think the van ran over her and her two legs were smashed. I had to take off my belt with another guy and tie her legs," said Massaoudi.

He believes that that woman is 80-year-old Dorothy Sewell, who was confirmed to be among the dead by her grandson, Elwood Delaney.

Moments after Massaoudi handed over his belt, he says the stranger who he was administering first aid with asked him to check on the third woman, who appeared to be in her twenties and was going in and out of consciousness about a metre away.

'Her name is Samantha, I hope she survived'

"She was by herself," said Massaoudi. "I checked her pulse and she was alive. I think she was injured on her back and her legs. I covered her and was talking to her. Her name is Samantha, I hope she survived."

On Tuesday, court documents indicated there are two injured women with that name, Sammantha Samson and Samantha Peart. CBC is unable to confirm if either of those women is the one Massaoudi helped. The names of the 10 people who died have not yet been released. 

As he was helping the young woman, he says he heard sirens and a helicopter overhead.

"I thought, 'Oh my god, we are not in Canada; we are in some warzone."

First responders and bystanders tend to victims of the Yonge Street attack. (Instagram: @arshiaalexander)

Massaoudi says passersby began crowding around him and the others who were helping victims. Some of the bystanders started taking pictures. 

"We told them to go away. Some of them tried to film but we didn't let them."

It's those few minutes that Massaodi says are etched in his mind. On Tuesday, Toronto Police Chief Mark Saunders said his thoughts go out to those people who witnessed the van attack that has now left 10 people dead and numerous others injured.

One of those killed is Anne Marie D'Amico, who Rob Greco says he tended to.

'Be brave, help is on the way'

As he saw the white van speeding down the sidewalk, Greco says "I couldn't come to grips with what was unfolding … [D'Amico] was the last person that I saw get hit by the van."

Greco also tried to call 911 and then told D'Amico to "be brave, help is on the way.

"I moved her hair away from her face so it doesn't get in the way of her breathing," said Greco.

When paramedics arrived, he says they asked him to hold gauze on D'Amico's wound and then she was put into the ambulance in a neck brace. 

Amanda Kang cries at a memorial on Yonge Street the day after a driver drove a rented van down sidewalks Monday afternoon, striking pedestrians in his path in Toronto, Tuesday, April 24, 2018. (Galit Rodan/Canadian Press)

Those in emotional distress urged to call Victim Services 

Massaoudi also waited for paramedics to arrive before leaving the woman he was helping.

"I'm praying for her," said Massaoudi.

Police Chief Mark Saunders says numerous services have stepped in to offer free aid to anyone who witnessed Monday's attack.

"It is a service that will be provided for free. There is no cost to it. I don't want people walking away saying, 'I can't afford it,'" said Saunders.

The charitable organization Victims Services Toronto says since Monday it has received a lot of calls. It's urging anyone who feels emotionally distressed to call: (416) 808-7066

With files from Jeffrey Sze

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Natalie Nanowski

Reporter, CBC Toronto

Natalie is a storyteller who spent the last few years in Montreal covering everything from politics to corruption and student protests. Now that she’s back in her hometown of Toronto, she is eagerly rediscovering what makes this city tick, and has a personal interest in real estate and environmental journalism. When she’s not reporting you can find her at a yoga studio or exploring Queen St. Contact Natalie: natalie.nanowski@cbc.ca

now