The site where a speeding vehicle struck pedestrians Thursday, May 18, 2017 at Times Square in New York City. At least 22 people were injured and receiving treatment and one killed after a speeding vehicle struck pedestrians on sidewalk, eyewitnesses said.
Photo credit: Wang Ying/Xinhua/Sipa USA/TNS
NEW YORK — A driver plowed into a crowd of pedestrians in New York’s bustling Times Square on Thursday, killing one person and injuring at least 22 others, four of them critically.
The incident sparked pandemonium in one of the city’s busiest tourist and leisure centers, as bloodied victims were hauled away on stretchers and the vehicle that caused the injuries lay upended and steaming on a sidewalk.
Police said early indications were that the crash was not terror-related, but tied to a driver with a history of driving under the influence of intoxicants.
“Based on the information we have at this moment, there is no indication that this was an act of terrorism,” New York Mayor Bill de Blasio told reporters.
“That being said, we are reinforcing key locations around the city with our anti-terror units of the NYPD,” he said. “It’s a tough day for New York City, but as usual the people of New York City will stand firm, will be resilient.”
Authorities said the driver had been traveling down 7th Avenue and made a U-turn at 42nd Street, then mounted the curb and sped up the sidewalk for three blocks before flipping the vehicle on a short security post at the corner of 45th Street and Broadway.
Along the way, 23 pedestrians were struck, police said.
The driver was apprehended by police and civilians as he tried to run from the scene, authorities said.
Emergency vehicles with sirens blaring rushed to the corner where the maroon Honda Accord lay tilted against a post, its right wheels in the air.
The man taken into custody was identified as 26-year-old Richard Rojas, a resident of the Bronx. Police said he is a Navy veteran and has two prior arrests, in 2008 and 2015, for driving under the influence. He was also arrested this month for an unspecified drug offense, they said.
The pedestrian who was killed, an 18-year-old woman, was a tourist from Michigan, authorities said. Her 13-year-old sister was transported to a hospital.
Annette Proehl, who is from Pennsylvania, was in Times Square with a group of children on a field trip when she heard the speeding vehicle approach, with people screaming.
“The car landed sideways,” she told CNN. “I saw a gentleman underneath the car, and another gentleman was pulling him out, and it was a real mess.”
She said she saw flames coming from the vehicle and started hurrying the children away as people scattered around them.
Brad Hoylman, a New York state senator, was nearby and arrived at Times Square moments after the crash. He described seeing a “very large and impressive” man who worked at a nearby Planet Hollywood come rushing out of the restaurant and help a traffic officer tackle the driver as he tried to flee.
“It was an absolutely sickening scene,” he said. “There was this demolished car, and wreckage strewn all over the street.”
Evan Stemmer, 25, who was visiting New York from Detroit, said he was returning to his hotel with a friend when they heard the sirens and saw the arrest.
“We could see that there was someone being pulled and a struggle,” he said. “And on each block, there was somebody lying on the sidewalk.”
Demick reported from New York, Zavis from Los Angeles. Los Angeles Times staff writer Kurtis Lee contributed to this report.
2017 Los Angeles Times
Tribune News Service
SOURCE: LOS ANGELES TIMES & Officer.com