Tragedy struck the South by Southwest music festival early Thursday morning as a suspected drunk driver, attempting to flee police, plowed into crowds on a closed street, killing two people on a scooter and injuring 23 others, two of whom are in critical condition.
According to the Austin Statesman, the incident occurred around 12:30 a.m. when police attempted to stop a driver of Toyota sedan who was suspected of driving drunk. The driver of the car evaded the officer at the gas station where he was being stopped and headed the wrong way on a one-way street, before turning onto Red River street, which was barricaded off, and drove for more than two blocks, striking numerous pedestrians. The driver then hit a scooter traveling on 11th street, killing the man and woman who were riding it, as well as a taxi and a parked van, before attempting to flee on foot. The officer who originally attempted to make the stop used a taser gun to apprehend the suspect.
Austin police chief Art Acevedo promised that the man, whose name has not yet been released, would be punished to the full extent of the law. He faces two counts of capital murder and 23 counts of aggravated assault by vehicle.
“This individual acted in a reckless, willful disregard for the people that were here at this event,” Acevedo said.
Witnesses told the Statesman that the driver “gunned” the car down the closed street and that “About 10 bodies went flying” when the driver mowed into the crowd at high speeds.
"It looked like something out of a movie," witness Russ Barone told CNN. "A few people lying on the street ... with their friends around them trying to get them up, trying to get them back to life. Hopefully, they are."
"We had a large crowd," Acevedo said at his news conference. "I just thank God that a lot of the folks had already been pushed on the sidewalk or this could have been a lot worse."
SXSW organizers issued a statement that read in part: "Our thoughts and prayers go out to those affected by the tragic accident that took place last night here in Austin.” They said there will be some scheduling changes as a result of the incident.
“We appreciate and commend the first responders as well as the city agencies who so quickly sprung into action,” organizers said.