Homeless woman killed in downtown laneway IDed as police search for her family
Police have identified the homeless woman killed by a garbage truck in a downtown laneway on Tuesday after attempts to locate members of her family proved unsuccessful.
Hang Vo was reportedly asleep in a laneway on University Avenue near York Street at around 6 a.m. when a garbage truck backed into the alleyway and struck her.
It's believed the 58-year-old was asleep on a steam grate to keep warm. She died at the scene.
“Obviously a garbage truck is a very big vehicle,” Insp. Jim Gotell said. “The person was obviously hurt, very badly, very quickly.”
At this point, investigators have been unable to locate the victim’s next of kin.
“The woman’s identity is being released to the public in hopes that it will lead to a friend or family member to come forward,” police wrote in a news release Friday.
Vo has been described as five-foot-six, 120 pounds with brown eyes. She is known to visit various shelters in the Toronto area.
A vigil was held for Vo at the site of the tragedy on Thursday.
As mourners placed flowers in a grate on the sidewalk, advocates for the homeless criticized the city’s shelter system.
“We’re seeing deaths almost weekly in fact. Obviously we’re trying to honour and remember this person’s life but again to speak out with a very large voice to the city that the mayor has to declare a state of emergency,” Cathy Crowe, a prominent street nurse and community advocate, said.
“The shelter system is a disaster. There are over 1000 people sleeping in places that are not even real shelters and then we’ve got people outside who are really forced to be outside.”
According to the City of Toronto’s data, as of January 16, the shelter system is at 93 per cent capacity. Emergency shelters and centres that operate specifically for women are at 99 per cent capacity.
The garbage truck company is cooperating with the investigation. Police said the driver is “traumatized” by the events and seeking psychological help.
Police are still looking for witnesses to the incident and are asking local residents, businesses and drivers who may have security or dashboard camera video of the incident to contact them.