'I just froze,' says woman who narrowly avoided van in Toronto attack

Vasiola Bibolli says she would have been hit by the white van that struck a crowd of pedestrians in Toronto if her friend hadn't pulled her to safety at the last second.

Vasiola Bibolli says her friend pulled her out of the way just before the van rammed into crowds

People react to an incident where a van struck multiple people at a major intersection in north Toronto. (Carlo Allegri/Reuters)

Read Story Transcript

Warning: This story includes graphic details.

Vasiola Bibolli says she would have been hit by the white van that struck a crowd of pedestrians on Toronto's Yonge Street Monday if her friend hadn't pulled her to safety at the last second.

Toronto police say 10 people are dead and 14 are injured after a van mounted a sidewalk in north Toronto, hitting a crowd of pedestrians.

CBC News has confirmed that Alek Minassian, 25, is the alleged driver in the attack. 

Bibolli, a 30-year-old law student, told As It Happens host Carol Off what she saw. Here is part of that conversation.

Where were you when all this began to happen?

We were by Starbucks with my co-workers. We were about to head south towards the McDonald's and this van came by right near the hot dog stand.

When did it come to your attention? What was it doing that made you notice?

I was actually faced away from the van, but my friend was in a position to see the van, and she kind of grabbed me.

She was like, "Oh my gosh, watch out!" as it was coming towards [us].

And then after she pulled me, he accelerated and he hit one pedestrian ... and then he accelerated really hard, and he hit this very old lady and her body flopped onto [the] hood of the car. It hit the ground. Her head immediately started bleeding, and then he also ran over her and continued piling through the rest of the pedestrian sidewalk.

You saw all of this?


Police inspect the van they believe was used to strike several pedestrians on a Toronto sidewalk. (Cole Burston/Getty Images)

And your friend pushed you out of the way before before you were one of these victims?

She pulled me out of the way before I would have been one of those people, yeah.

So the van jumped the curb — is that what happened?

The van pretty much jumped the curb right by the hot dog stand.

And was it out of control?

It didn't seem like it was out of control.

Did you see the man who was driving it?

I couldn't put a face together, but I could see that the man had scruff on his face. That's all I can remember.

He came up on the curb and then he accelerated?

Yeah, and then he accelerated hard throughout. 

A Toronto police officer responds the scene. (Chris Donovan/Reuters)

Were there many people out on the sidewalk?

The sidewalk is always packed around lunchtime, so it was full. And people are screaming and yelling.

It was a beautiful sunny day and people are just out enjoying the sunshine, getting something to eat for lunch?

That's correct.

What could you see as to how people were reacting? Were they trying to get out of the way or what?

We were all so confused as to why this van was on the pedestrian sidewalk.

And then when he accelerated and he hit that old lady, then people really started to panic.

The two people were right near you, then, these two who were hit?

They were about a few steps away, 15 steps away.

And those were two of the people who did not survive this?

That's correct. They're for sure dead. They put over the orange cover.

Joanna Russo and Ion Saroiu work near Yonge Street and Finch Avenue, where the attack happened. They were at the scene minutes after the attack. We reached them earlier today. 5:50

How long before police arrived?

About seven minutes.

Did you speak to police? Did you tell them what you saw?

I have not given a witness statement yet, but I will be giving a witness statement.

You must be very shaken by this.

I just froze, especially when my friend pulled me out and then he started accelerating.

And what were you thinking? What was going through your mind at that time?

I couldn't even process anything, to be honest. I just thought it was so intentional and malicious.

There's no doubt in your mind that this was something that was intended? That there wasn't an accident or someone losing control of a vehicle?

No, the guy seemed very in control of the vehicle. It wasn't someone who had been drinking or whatnot.

A pedestrian who witnessed the incident cries. (Carlo Allegri/Reuters)

How was your friend? 

She was really devastated. She ended up going home.

I hope you're not going back to school or work?

I'm just currently at work because I don't want to be driving. But I'm not working. I'm just here to kind of just decompress.

You have people with you? People who can can comfort you and be around you?

They've been very supportive.

A police officer in a yellow vest stands at the scene of the deadly incident. (Carlo Allegri/Reuters)

It's just something you'll never get over.

No, especially the sight of the woman being hit immediately right after. That could have been me.

How close do you think you came?

My friend said I was a few feet away.

Written by Sheena Goodyear with files from Canadian Press. Interview produced by Chris Harbord.