A car crash at an auto auction in Billerica, Massachusetts killed three people and left nine others injured. One witness at the scene said he thought a car “blew up.”
The crash happened at around 10 a.m. ET, about 90 minutes after the auction began at Lynnway Auto Auction, when a 2006 Jeep Grand Cherokee suddenly accelerated. According to WCVB, six people were treated at Lahey Hospital and Medical Center, and three others are being treated at Lowell General Hospital.
The auto auction was for dealers-only. Used cars are paraded out in front of the dealers, who then can choose to buy the cars to sell on their lots.
Here’s what you need to know about the crash.
1. 3 People Were Killed After the Car Suddenly Accelerated
Although the auction hadn’t started yet, there was still a large group of people at the auction, which was being held at an indoor facility. WBUR reports that Middlesex District Attorney Marian Ryan told the media that the driver behind the wheel of the 2006 Jeep Grand Cherokee worked at the auction.
The vehicle went into the facility, then suddenly accelerated, driving through the building until it crashed into the concrete wall on the other side. The building is about 100 yards long, The Boston Globe reports.
The Jeep was in line to be shown to potential buyers and was part of a slow procession. It suddenly accelerated and the cause still isn’t known.
“As this vehicle began to enter the building, following a pace behind the car in front of it, it suddenly accelerated, traveled through the inside of the building at a very high rate of speed, striking numerous people and ultimately was brought to a halt by crashing into a cinder block wall at the far end,” Ryan explained. She added that there were “several hundred people” inside when the crash happened, notes WBUR.
Two women and one man were killed. Officials have not released their names or ages.
2. A Witness Said He ‘Thought a Car Blew Up’
One witness called in to WCVB to tell the station that it sounded like a car blew up when the accident happened.
“I thought a car blew up, to be honest with you,” Rick Menard told the station. “There was a real high winding pitch and then you heard a crashing sound.”
Another witness, John Horne, told WBZ that he heard “screeching” and tried to help. He confirmed that there was already a police detail on scene and everyone jumped into action to help those injured.
“It hit the wall all the way to the end. It’s a concrete wall. So many people are hurt I have no idea,” a witness named Geraldo told WBZ. “It happened so quick and it was so much damage because there are just so many people (inside the building).”
3. The Driver Has Been Talking With Police
Officials told WCVB that the driver was alert and spoke with police. His name has not been released.
WBUR reports that Ryan said the driver was in his 70s. All the evidence she has seen so far showed that this was a “tragic accident.”
The Boston Globe reports that Ryan said she believes the investigation will be “fairly lengthy.”
4. Massachusetts State Police Say There’s No Evidence of This Being Intentional
Massachusetts State Police quickly announced that there is no evidence of this being an intentional attack. Police issued the following statement:
Preliminary investigation at the scene of the crash at Lynnway Auto Auctions in Billerica indicate that there are fatalities among the multiple victims. At this point, there is no evidence or information to suggest the incident was caused by an intentional or terrorist act. All evidence and information at this time suggests an accidental cause. The investigation by Billerica and State Police is ongoing. No further information is available at this time.
State Police are using a crash reconstruction team to help Bellerica Police, notes WBZ.
5. Lynnway Auto Auction Was Previously Fined by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration
Lynnway Auto Auction posted a statement on its website, sending their condolences to the victims’ families.
“We are shaken and deeply saddened by the unfortunate accident at Lynnway today,” the statement reads. “Our thoughts and prayers go out to the individuals and families affected by this event.”
“It could have been a lot worse with the amount of people who were there,” Billerica Fire Chief Thomas Conway told WBZ.
Lynnway has faced safety concerns in the past. Back in 2014, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) cited the auction for “serious” violations of workplace safety regulations. An inspection found that the company “failed to require the use of traffic control devices while employees performed maintenance tasks among moving vehicles.” Lynnway was first fined $6,300 for the two violations, but that fine was later decreased to $2,200.
One violation notes:
On or about 3/28/14, the employer failed to require the use of traffic control devices while employees performed maintenance tasks among moving vehicles. Among other means, one acceptable method to abate this hazard is to provide and require the use of traffic control devices to protect employees while performing maintenance activities including consideration of the following: Traffic cones, traffic directional, caution tape, physical barriers, and personal spotter.
OSHA will lead an investigation into today’s crash.
Before the accident, Lynnway posted a photo of the cars lined up for the auction. “Lined up and ready for a beautiful Wednesday morning,” the caption read.
Lynnway has been in business since 1997 and auctions off used cars to dealers. The company moved to Billerica in 2011 and holds online auctions as well. Their facility has eight lanes and covers 58 acres.