The Deadliest Vehicle-Ramming Attacks In History

A wave of deadly vehicle-ramming attacks has put the world on edge. While acts of terrorism have become more common in cases of mass vehicular manslaughter, some of these incidents are carried out by individuals acting alone. At its root, terrorism is meant to perpetuate an agenda by means of striking fear in a population, largely through violence. But some mass killers don't have a political motivation. These men and women, often mentally unstable, are lashing out for personal reasons, and they're using everyday vehicles to enact as much carnage as possible.

While governments around the world are working on how to prevent vehicle-ramming attacks, a new generation of criminals are turning to increasingly macabre ways of committing mass murder. As the number of people killed in vehicle rammings rises, we should all take a look back at some of the worst ramming attacks in modern history. 

  • Hebei Tractor Rampage

    Deaths: 17

    Injuries: 30-40

    In 2018, former Chinese soldier Li Xianliang went on a drunken rampage on August 1, 2010. Xianliang used an industrial bucket loader to commit the atrocity, which took place in China's northern Hebei province. In addition to the loss of lives, the rampage  took out entire buildings as well as trees and cars. 

    The spontaneous killing was the result of an altercation between Xianliang and the boss at the coal mine he worked for. After murdering his boss over a financial disagreement, Xianliang hijacked the bucket loader and went on his rampage. One bystander managed to climb aboard the loader and stab Xianliang, who returned to the coal mine with serious injuries. He was only apprehended after a local villager kicked him in the groin and subdued him. 

  • Toronto Van Attack

    Deaths: 10

    Injuries: 15

    A man by the name of Alek Minassian committed the deadliest vehicle attack in Canadian history on April 23, 2018. Minassian drove a rented passenger van down a crowded sidewalk, striking more than two dozen people. The killer was a self-described "incel", an internet term for socially stunted men who claim to be involuntarily celibate. His arresting officer was praised for his restraint and lack of violence while apprehending the suspect, who claimed to have a weapon and goaded the officer into killing him. Minassian was taken into custody peacefully and has been charged with multiple counts of murder and attempted murder.

  • Olga Hepnarová Case

    Deaths: 8

    Injuries: 12

    On July 10, 1973, Olga Hepnarová, a mentally disturbed woman from the former Czechoslovakia, rented a truck and proceeded to plow through a group of elderly citizens waiting for a bus. Before the attack, she had sent letters to the press detailing the motivations behind her crime. It was an act of revenge, but not against the people she had killed. Hepnarová reportedly felt excluded and isolated from the world. Her act was a statement to both her family and society at large, an act meant to punish a culture that she viewed as wicked.

    In the letters, Hepnarová requested a death sentence via hanging as her punishment. She got her wish and was hung to death in 1975. She became the last woman in Czechoslovakian history to be executed. 

  • Koningsdag Massacre

    Deaths: 8 (including the attacker)

    Injuries: 10

    On April 30, 2009, during a royal parade celebrating the Dutch holiday of Koningsdag (Queen's Day), a man drove his car into a crowd of revelers in front of the Dutch royal family. The attack appeared to have been directed at the royal family, who escaped unharmed. The assailant, a Dutch citizen from Huissen, suffered critical wounds during the crash and would die shortly after. The attack left the public baffled and no clear motive was ever revealed. 

  • Akihabara Massacre
    Photo: Carpkazu / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0

    Akihabara Massacre

    Deaths: 7

    Injuries: 10

    On June 8, 2008, a massacre in Tokyo's Akihabara shopping district left a trail of carnage when Tomohiro Kato drove a rented truck through a crowd of shoppers. After crashing the vehicle, Kato left the truck and proceeded to go on a stabbing rampage. Using a large dagger, he killed four people and wounded eight more. Prosecutors described Kato as being socially isolated before the attack, saying that his only social interactions appeared to be posts on an online messaging board. The attack may have been inspired by negative reactions toward the posts he made online.

    While Kato expressed strong remorse for the attack and made several public apologies, he was ultimately tried and convicted. He was sentenced to death for his actions. 

  • Melbourne Car Attack
    Photo: Jeremygbyrne / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0

    Melbourne Car Attack

    Deaths: 6

    Injuries: 36

    Dimitrious Gargasoulas was charged with six counts of murder after he rammed dozens of pedestrians on a busy street in the heart of Melbourne on January 20, 2017. Gargasoulas was wearing nothing but red underwear and sneakers when Australian authorities shot and apprehended him. The incident began miles away, where Gargaoulas was involved in an altercation that left one man stabbed. He proceeded to kidnap a woman and hijack a car before going on the rampage. A three month old infant and 10 year old girl died in the ensuing carnage.