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Police seek witnesses in death of woman struck by commercial sign

Police investigate the scene where a woman was killed by flying debris near Keele Street and St. Clair Avenue during a storm in Toronto on Monday, October 29, 2012. Police believe it was the other side of the Staples sign that was found nearby.

Matthew Sherwood/The Globe and Mail

Police in Toronto's west end spent Tuesday probing the circumstances that led to a woman being killed Monday evening by a flying store sign, torn from its moorings at a Staples outlet as the city was buffeted by high winds.

So far, however, no clear answers have emerged. Civic records show no prior complaints or issues with the big, rectangular steel-and-glass sign since the store opened its doors 15 years ago.

"At this point our thoughts go out to the victim's family and loved ones, and we're doing whatever we can to co-operate with the police on the investigation," said Nina Sampat, national director of operations for the business-supply chain's more than 300 Canadian stores.

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"All we know is the high winds caused the sign to detach, that's honestly it at this point."

Detectives, meanwhile, are appealing for witnesses to the incident.

The unidentified woman, who was in her 50s, was walking in the parking lot of the Staples outlet on Keele Street, just south of St. Clair Avenue W.

Shortly after 7 p.m. as the city was being rocked by strong winds created by superstorm Sandy, a section of the store's sign was ripped loose from its frame. As it fell it struck the woman, inflicting head and neck injuries.

Police and EMS officials performed CPR, but she was pronounced dead at the scene.

So far, however, police have not located any witnesses to the accident..

The store, which was closed for the day, is part of the Stockyards retail complex, home to half a dozen big-box operations that include Home Depot, Rona and Canadian Tire.

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A permit was issued allowing the building to open in 1997, and the property was subsequently inspected to ensure compliance, said Brian Hawkins, senior communications co-ordinator for the City of Toronto.

After that, he said, it is the company's responsibility to ensure everything remains in good repair, as defined under the Property Standards bylaw.

There have been regular inspections by Staples' in-house maintenance team, Ms. Sampat said, but she was unsure when the last one took place.

"I'm not comfortable in saying because I'm not sure how regular (the inspection process) is."

The victim's name will not be released, police said.

Anyone who did witness the accident, or who has any other information, is asked to call 11 Division at 416-808-1100. Alternatively, police can be contacted anonymously via Crime Stoppers.

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About the Author

At The Globe and Mail since 1982, in assorted manifestations, chiefly crime reporter, foreign correspondent and member of the Editorial Board, Tim is now retired. More


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