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04/25/2018 07:01 EDT | Updated 04/27/2018 15:39 EDT

Toronto Van Attack Victim Identification Could Take Days, Coroner Says

The coroner's office is being particularly careful to avoid any possible confusion, Ontario's chief coroner says.

Messages on post-it notes sit in the rain April 24, 2018. A candlelight vigil is held at Olive Square near Yonge and Finch Streets for the 10 people that were killed and the 15 injured in the van attack along Yonge Street between Sheppard and Finch streets  in Toronto.
Steve Russell via Getty Images
Messages on post-it notes sit in the rain April 24, 2018. A candlelight vigil is held at Olive Square near Yonge and Finch Streets for the 10 people that were killed and the 15 injured in the van attack along Yonge Street between Sheppard and Finch streets in Toronto.

TORONTO — It could take days to confirm the identities of 10 people killed in a van attack in northern Toronto that left 16 others injured, Ontario's chief coroner said as a forensics team sought records and information to assist in the grim task.

The number of fatalities and the circumstances of the incident make it challenging to quickly identify those who died, and the coroner's office is being particularly careful to avoid any possible confusion, Dr. Dirk Huyer said.

The Monday afternoon rampage "occurred in a very busy pedestrian area and it occurred over significant distance," he said in a news conference Tuesday.

"Most of the time people have identification on them and that gives us the first information as to who that person may be. So from that information we then reach out to family members and we have done that." he said.

"We've asked them to help us to develop a method to scientifically confirm those identifications and those confirmations will be through dental X-ray comparison, potentially fingerprint comparison or, if necessary, DNA comparison. So we are actively obtaining records."

Frankly, it takes time to get records and it takes time to meet families and that's not a resource issue.

Visual identification is not sufficient since people look different when they have died, and especially when they suffered serious injuries, he said.

When asked if the coroner's office was lacking the necessary resources to complete the work quickly, Huyer said additional help had been called in and arrived Monday.

"Frankly, it takes time to get records and it takes time to meet families and that's not a resource issue," he said.

Alek Minassian, a 25-year-old from Richmond Hill, Ont., was charged on Tuesday with 10 counts of first-degree murder and 13 counts of attempted murder.

CLARIFICATION - April 27, 2018: Previous reports from Toronto police stated that 14 people were injured in the Toronto van rampage. Officials have since updated that number to 16.

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