A mass injury tragedy at a New Orleans Mardi Gras parade now appears to have been caused by a possibly “highly intoxicated” driver, according to CNN.
That’s the word from the New Orleans police chief and mayor about the incident that sent 28 people to seven different hospitals, although police now say it does not appear that any of those people have life-threatening injuries, The Advocate reported.
The incident at first seemed to mirror terrorists’ modus operandi in Europe – where mass casualties were inflicted in Berlin and Nice by people driving vehicles into crowds – but the New Orleans incident now appears to be an accident possibly caused by alcohol, not an attack. The car plowed into the New Orleans parade-goers after striking another vehicle. (Warning: Some of the images below are disturbing.)
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Those Injured Included a Police Officer, Students & Toddler
The New Orleans Advocate newspaper reported the crash occurred at Orleans and Carrollton during the Endymion parade. New Orleans police said the number injured could grow, and it did throughout the night, as reports of those injured increased from 12 to 21 and then to 28. A police officer was among those injured, and the youngest victim was a toddler.
WKRG reported that four Mobile Alabama students from Spring Hill College were also injured.
CNN reported that the injuries do not appear to be life-threatening, although five people were seriously injured; initial reports had said 12 people were in critical condition. The injured were transported to seven different hospitals.
The Advocate reported that those injured ranged from 3 or 4 to 30s and 40s, and that those sent to a trauma center were in guarded condition. The police officer injured is awake and talking, reported The Advocate.
Fox 8 New Orleans reported that the FBI was looking into the incident, quoting the bureau as saying, “We are currently coordinating with our federal, state, and local law enforcement partners to determine whether a federal violation has occurred.”
2. Raw Video Showed Chaos at the Scene
Videos posted to social media showed pandemonium as rescue workers attended to those injured. The mayor later praised the quick response of rescue workers on Twitter. NOLA.com quoted an eyewitness as saying of the driver: “It seemed like he got pissed off because all of a sudden he slammed the gas and his back tires started and it seemed like his foot never left the gas pedal.” The newspaper also quoted an eyewitness as saying bodies were “flying off the hood while he was still driving” but a dump truck obstructed the truck from causing further harm.
Eyewitnesses said a pickup truck “plowed” into the crowd watching the Endymion parade after striking other vehicles along the roadway, CNN reported.
Some people were trapped under the truck and a car it hit.
The Advocate reported that people desperately searched for loved ones right after the incident.
3. Drunk Driving Was the Suspected Motive, Reports Contend
A WDSU-TV reporter and other local media sources said it’s believed a possible drunk driver was at fault. According to CNN, Police Chief Michael Harrison said “it appeared the suspect, who was driving a pickup truck that hit two cars before running into the crowd, was likely highly intoxicated.”
CNN reported that there are no indications at this point of a terrorist attack.
New Orleans’ mayor referred to the suspect as a “drunk driver” on Twitter. Fox News quoted the police chief as saying, “…it appears it was a subject who was highly intoxicated who struck a number of vehicles and veered off hitting a number of innocent people.” According to Fox News, a government source told the network “that the suspect was intoxicated and was shouting ‘kill me’ as he was being taken away.”
4. An Eyewitness Alleged the Driver ‘Took Out Rows of People’ Watching the Parade
An eyewitness told NOLA.com that “he heard three crashes then a fourth loud crash, and saw the truck had come to rest against a garbage bin. Several people, including a police officer, were pinned between the truck and the garbage bin or beneath the truck.” The eyewitness told the newspaper of the driver, “He took out rows of people.”
The Advocate reported that an eyewitness at the scene “said a silver truck whisked by her just feet away as she was walking through the neutral ground at intersection.” The newspaper quoted the woman as saying, “I actually literally felt it. I felt a rush it was so fast,” adding that the truck hit a “white Chevrolet Malibu, sending it into a utility pole.” Another eyewitness told the newspaper that the driver seemed “just kind of out of it.”
The incident was still unfolding, and details were still coming in. One tweet from a videographer said, “@NOPDNews @WWLTV Black truck hit a white car spun out of control rammed into a bus or a trailer.”
The New Orleans Police Department confirmed on Twitter that “a vehicle ran into a crowd of people at the Orleans and Carrollton.”
5. The Parade Is Part of the City’s Famous Mardi Gras Celebrations
The Endymion parade is part of New Orleans’ famed Mardi Gras celebrations. According to NOLA Curbed, the Endymion parade is one of a series of parades that are part of Mardi Gras festivities.
The site wrote, “Throughout the next couple of days, some of the largest krewes—a.k.a super krewes—are expected to roll through the city, including Bacchus, Endymion and Orpheus.”