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Portraits of victims emerge as police begin sorting through evidence

Anne Marie D'Amico, 30, was killed in a van attack on Yonge Street on April 23, 2018.

James Lobban/Facebook

Morgan McDougall doesn’t know what it was that caused him to turn around. It could have been the sound of screeching tires. Or the sound of people screaming.

Whatever it was, it came a split-second too late. “All I had was a second to put my arms up,” he said. The van hit him and then he was on the ground.

Mr. McDougall, a 27-year-old student at Seneca College, was knocked unconscious. When he came to a few moments later, a policeman and a paramedic were crouching over him.

Toronto van attack: What we know so far

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He soon realized that others around him were injured. The woman he was walking to lunch with, on their first meeting after being introduced by friends, had been hit by the van, too. They were both sent to hospital.

But it would be hours before he realized that the van in fact had killed and injured many others. And it would be hours after that before he would read his own name on a list of charges against the driver. In total, Alek Minassian faces 10 counts of first-degree murder and 13 counts of attempted murder − including the attempted murder of Mr. McDougall.

As police embark on the arduous task of sifting through the mountains of evidence collected over a two-kilometre stretch of busy Toronto roadway, portraits began to emerge of the dozens of lives the otherwise-ordinary rental van has left forever changed.

Officially, it will take several days before a full list of victims is released. But by Wednesday morning, at least five of the 10 who died had been identified.

Friends identified Renuka Amarasinghe as one of the victims on Wednesday morning.

Ms. Amarasinghe was from Horana, Sri Lanka, and immigrated to Canada about 15 years ago, her friends said. She was in her late 40s, and the single mother of a seven-year-old boy.

“She was just a nice person. A lovely person,” said Gurge Dadmasir, a family friend. Their children often played together, and he said she was completely devoted to her son.

“She takes care of her son very good, that’s all we know,” he said. “If a little thing happens, she’ll panic. If he gets sick or anything, she’ll take him to the doctor.”

Ms. Amarasinghe lived in a basement apartment with her son at a house in Scarborough. Friends are now discussing ways to ensure the little boy is cared for and have started an online fundraising campaign to assist him.

Ms. Amarasinghe was also a devoted Buddhist, attending the Toronto Mahavihara Buddhist Centre in Scarborough weekly for the past 15 years.

“She’s very kind, and a generous lady,” said Ahangama Rathanasiri, the abbot at the temple. “She comes here and participates in the religious services, makes arrangements, organizing everything.”

He said that on top of caring for her son in Toronto, Ms. Amarasinghe was also supporting an elderly mother living in Sri Lanka.

On Tuesday, Elwood Delaney confirmed his 80-year-old grandmother, Dorothy Sewell, was among the dead. He told The Globe and Mail that he wants her to be remembered as “a true Canadian, always helping everybody, and loved her sports.”

Elwood Delaney (front) confirmed his 80-year-old grandmother, Dorothy Sewell (left), was killed in the attack on April 23, 2018.

Elwood Delaney/Handout

“[She was] the best grandmother anyone could have asked for,” he wrote in a message to The Globe. “Almost had as much love for the Blue Jays and the Leafs as she did for her family.”

In a public Facebook post Tuesday, Mr. Delaney posted photos of his grandmother with Blue Jays memorabilia and a message to the suspected attacker: “Thanks to you I had to tell my 3 children and my wife that they will no longer get to talk to Nan on [their] birthdays or Christmas.”

Anne Marie D’Amico, a 30-year-old Toronto woman, was killed near the Yonge Street headquarters of the investment company where she worked, her family said.

“She only had kindness to her,” the D’Amico family said in a statement. “Her name has been broadcasted around the world attached to this terrible tragedy. But we want everyone to know that she embodied the definition of altruism.”

After this week’s horror, the family said, “we hope that in this time, people fight with the same altruism rather than with anger and hatred.”

Two and a half years ago, Jenn Digiandomenico was volunteering alongside Ms. D’Amico in Nuevo Renacer, a small town near Puerto Plata in the Dominican Republic. They were on a humanitarian tour helping to build homes for families in need.

After a full day of back-breaking labour, it began to rain. Most of the volunteers wanted to call it a day and head back to the hotel. But not Ms. D’Amico. “She wanted to stay and get it done,” Ms. Digiandomenico said.

It was this generosity, and seemingly boundless energy for volunteering, that friends say defined the young woman.

As young as 12, Ms. D’Amico began volunteering as a ball girl at the Rogers Cup. It was a sport her entire family was involved with – her grandmother, her parents and brother all volunteered with Tennis Canada.

Later, as a student at Ryerson University, she became heavily involved with student groups, including serving as co-chair of one of the business school’s largest events.

“I don’t think anybody ever walked by without seeing a smile on her face,” said Abdullah Snobar, who went to school with Ms. D’Amico. On Tuesday, a small memorial was set up at Ryerson for Ms. D’Amico, for students and faculty who wanted to offer their condolences.

Even after she began working full time, she spent “countless hours” volunteering, said Gavin Ziv, a vice-president at Tennis Canada. Two years ago, she was selected from among 1,200 volunteers as “volunteer of the year.”

He recalled how, a few years ago, a professional tennis player was set to leave for the airport but found she had accidentally lost the keys to her locker. Ms. D’Amico was sent in.

“A few minutes later, she came out and said, ’All done.’” Astonished, Mr. Ziv inquired further. “She said, ’Yeah, I kind of had to break down the door. So you’re going to have to get a new door.’”

Eddie Kang, was confirmed dead by his former coworkers at a popular chain of Brazilian steakhouses.

Melissa Tait/The Globe and Mail

Chul Min “Eddie” Kang was confirmed dead by his former coworkers at a popular chain of Brazilian steakhouses, where the affable chef had been employed since immigrating from South Korea several years ago.

Selwyn Joseph said he learned of his friend’s death Tuesday around 1 p.m. when a letter from management confirming his death in the attack was shared in a group phone chat among current and former employees of the Copacabana Brazilian Steakhouse.

“I just felt so bad and so shocked that it happened to him,” Mr. Joseph said Tuesday evening. “He’s really a humble guy and was there for you with anything you need.”

Mr. Kang, in his early 30s, leaves a wife who had been living in Toronto but is now in South Korea, Mr. Joseph said.

A group of friends were planning on gathering at the Adelaide location where he worked late Tuesday night to commemorate their friendly coworker who always strode into the kitchen with a smile on his face, Mr. Joseph said.

Jordanian citizen Munir Abed Alnajjar, shown with his wife, Lillian, was killed in Monday’s rampage.

Facebook/Omar Najjar

The Jordanian Canadian Society said Wednesday that Jordanian citizen Munir Abed Alnajjar was killed in Monday’s rampage, setting into motion tangled global discussions over whether his body could be transported to his home country.

Society president Ziad Malawi, a friend of Mr. Alnajjar’s son, told The Globe that the group was working with both the Jordanian government and Global Affairs Canada to facilitate a move – “whether that’s possible or not. If not, he will have to be buried in Canada.” (Global Affairs did not respond to a request for confirmation before publication.)

An Orthodox Christian, Mr. Alnajjar was visiting Canada with his wife Lillian to visit their large family in the Toronto area, and had been here less than two weeks, Mr. Malawi said. He said he was unsure if Lillian was injured in the rampage Monday, but she was not killed.

Their son, Omar, is in the choir of the Canadian Arab Orchestra; Mr. Malawi said the family is observing three days of mourning. The Jordanian-Canadian community is now working to fundraise to help Mr. Alnajjar’s family with any costs of transporting his body back home.

“We pray for all the victims and we hope that whoever is injured gets a speedy recovery,” Mr. Malawi said. “This is the time to show true Canadian strength: our perseverance, tolerance – Arabs, Canadians, Italians, Christians, Muslims, Jews, united, everybody – we stand together in the face of tragedies.”

The identities of a few of those injured also emerged.

A fundraising campaign was launched online by the relatives of Amaresh Tesfamariam, an Eritrean immigrant who arrived in Toronto in the late 1980s.

In an interview, nephew Menab Tesfu said his aunt was likely walking home from a nursing shift to her high-rise condo at Yonge Street and Sheppard Avenue when the van plowed into her. She’s now in critical condition with spinal damage, he said. He’s hoping that funds raised online can help his aunt eventually get back to rebuilding her life.

“She’s like my second mom,” he said.

Ryerson University meanwhile confirmed Tuesday that one of its contract lecturers had been injured in the attack, but declined to provide his name. The lecturer, The Globe and Mail learned, is Amir Kiumarsi, a contract chemistry lecturer with expertise in analytical chemistry, as well as sustainable and environmental analysis.

In other cases, clues emerged hinting at the remaining victims’ lives and their identities.

Two of the dead were citizens of South Korea, its consulate-general confirmed. But it declined to provide further information. And Ontario Chief Coroner Dirk Huyer said the victims were “predominantly women.”

At a news conference on Tuesday, Dr. Huyer explained why it will take “a number of days” before announcing the full list of victims.

“When we have tragedies of such numbers and complexity, it is very challenging,” he said. In order to scientifically confirm an identity, he said, dental X-rays, fingerprints or even DNA are required.

“We are always balancing the need to know with the desire to know quickly, to ensure that we have 100-per-cent accuracy,” Dr. Huyer said. “And that time can be very frustrating.”

At hospital, doctors treated Mr. McDougall, the Seneca student, before releasing him the same day.

“My shoulder’s a little bit messed up. And the back of my head, I have – it’s a couple inches in diameter – like a circle,” he said.

Altogether, he counts himself lucky. He’s been following news reports and social-media postings about the attack.

His friend – the woman he was meeting for the first time for lunch on Monday – is still in hospital. He plans to visit her very soon.

“Emotionally, I have a lot going on. I’m grateful and happy – not only to be alive, but that there’s nothing wrong with me,” he said. “Everyone else is way, way, way worse.”

With reports from Jeff Gray, Mike Hager, Andrea Woo, The Canadian Press and Reuters

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne says extra resources have been added to more rapidly identify victims of Monday’s fatal van attack in Toronto. The Canadian Press
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