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Police hunt for driver in fatal hit-and-run of cyclist who was local teacher

A series of screenshots from Toronto Crime Stopper’s new app, which lets users send videos, photos and other anonymous tips.

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Students at a west side elementary school are mourning the loss of a teacher who was killed as he rode his bicycle through rush hour traffic Friday morning.

Police are searching for the driver of the van that struck 35-year-old Tom Samson, who taught Grade 2 at Swansea Public School, west of High Park.

"He was really funny, he had a wonderful sense of humour and the kids just adored him," said Swansea's principal, Karen Ridley. "We're all in shock that somebody so good had to be taken from us."

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The incident took place around 6:45 as Mr. Samson was trying to cross Davenport Road on the east side of Lansdowne Avenue, heading from the south side to the north side. He was hit by a red or burgundy Chrysler minivan travelling westbound on Davenport.

He was then struck by a second vehicle, a 2006 GMC van that was driving east. He was pronounced dead on arrival at hospital.

The 63-year-old driver of the GMC van stopped, but the driver of the red minivan did not.

Parents were brought into Mr. Samson's class Friday to be with their children when they were told of Mr. Samson's death, Ms. Ridley said.

Mr. Samson had taught at Swansea for eight years; he also coached chess and boys' basketball. He was known for wearing elaborate Halloween costumes, and this year he dressed up as a Korean singer whose goofy dance video has gone viral.

"He was doing the Gangnam style dance all day," said Ms. Ridley. "He was just really fun."

A trust fund has been set up for Mr. Samson's family at the Bank of Montreal branch at Windermere Ave. and Bloor Street West, according to an e-mail sent to the school community.

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It was unclear to investigators who was at fault. Either way, the mystery driver is now sought on a charge of failing to remain at the scene of an accident. Police are appealing to witnesses or anyone else who can help the investigation.

The suspect van will have sustained damage to the front end, on the driver's side.

It was the city's 39th traffic fatality of the year.

Anyone with information is urged to contact police at 416-808-1900 or anonymously via Crime Stoppers at 416 222-TIPS (8477) or online.

With research from Rick Cash

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