Toronto — The heart of Toronto’s trendy Yorkville shopping district was shocked to a standstill Sunday after an apparent explosion killed one man at a Tim Hortons outlet.
Toronto police Chief Bill Blair described the incident as a fire rather than a bombing. He refused to specify whether it was deliberate or accidental, but said police were not looking for suspects.
“It appears that there has been a very hot and intense fire in an enclosed area within the washroom,” Chief Blair said.
“I’m not going to speculate on the cause of what has transpired here. … Until we determine precisely what happened in that cubicle and what caused those flames that took that man’s life, I really can’t speculate.”
The male victim, who was pronounced dead at the scene, has not been identified.
A Tim Hortons spokesman confirmed the dead man was not an employee.
There were no other injuries, Chief Blair said.
Police would not confirm early reports that a man had entered the washroom shortly before the blast with explosives strapped to his body.
Eunice Almeida, 23, a regular patron of the Tim Hortons outlet, said she spoke to employees shortly after it was evacuated. One woman told her the blast was felt as a sudden shock through the store.
“There was an explosion in the men’s washroom, then there was a stampede and everybody ran out,” Ms. lmeida said.
Later Sunday, another of the coffee franchise’s Toronto outlets was locked down after a suspicious package was found. Police confirmed an emergency task force unit was dispatched to the second location — just a few subway stations north of the first — and the area was evacuated.
“There was a call by the people that worked at Tim Hortons doughnuts that a package had been left by a customer and they just were concerned about it — given what had transpired,” Chief Blair said.
Fire crews responding to the first scene said there was still smoke in the air of the coffee shop when they arrived after a 911 call.
“We weren’t witness to an explosion and there was a very small amount of smoke upon our arrival,” said fire department spokesman Daryl Fuglerud.
“It doesn’t appear that we could see much of a fire.”
Emergency workers attempted to revive the victim, but were unable to save him. Mr. Fuglerud said the man had burns to his body.
“We tried to work on him,” he said.
The body remained inside the coffee shop hours after the blast, while authorities cordoned off a block of busy Yonge Street and evacuated the area.
Passersby crowded on the sunny sidewalk along the yellow police tape and watched as a robotic bomb disposal unit was unloaded and sent into the building.
The fire marshal will be investigating, Mr. Fuglerud said.
A second loud bang was heard in the area at around 4 p.m. when police detonated a suspicious duffel bag found nearby as a precaution.
“(Police) dealt with it by exploding the package on the street,” Chief Blair said. “There was nothing in the package of a suspicious or problematic nature.”
Officers in white hazardous-materials suits were seen entering and leaving the store, but it was not clear whether a dangerous substance had been identified.
One woman who works in the area said the threat of violence so close to home surprised to her.
“It’s scary — it’s like you’re just not safe anywhere,” said Safina Vig, 29. “Anything can happen at any moment, especially in your own neighbourhood.”
Employees were escorted from the scene appearing shaken, and some attempted to shield their faces from the throng of television cameras.
They refused questions, but Tim Hortons district manager Amin Islam said they were doing well.
“I’m just making sure they’re going home safely,” he said.
Mr. Islam said he learned of the incident on the radio and immediately rushed to the scene to see what he could do.