Car Rams Into Pedestrians in NYC’s Times Square, Killing at Least 1
By NBC News
A driver speeding the wrong way plowed into pedestrians in the heart of midtown Manhattan's Times Square district midday Thursday, killing at least one person and injuring nearly two dozen others, city officials said.
The car crash — which did not appear to be terrorism-related — left a young woman dead at the scene and another 22 wounded, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio told reporters.
Officials said four of the injured were in critical condition, but their trauma did not appear to be life-threatening. The deceased victim's 13-year-old sister was among the injured and was taken to the hospital, police added.
While officials did not immediately release a cause for the mayhem at the bustling crossroads, the incident appeared to be an accident, said NYPD Commissioner James O'Neill.
The driver of the four-door Honda was in custody, multiple sources told NBC News. He was identified as Richard Rojas, a 26-year-old from the Bronx with a history of arrests for driving while intoxicated, as well as other driving infractions.
Police said Rojas was being tested for possible drug or alcohol intoxication.
Fire and emergency crews surrounded the chaotic crash site at the busy intersection of 42nd Street and 7th Avenue, where the car could be seen partially lifted off the ground. The car traveled in the wrong direction on the sidewalk for about three blocks before the crash occurred, police and witnesses said.
The driver "accelerated across at an angle, went up on the curb and hit that whole group of people waiting," witness Julie Fallo, 47, of New Jersey, told NBC News.
Social media posts also showed people lying on the sidewalk and being attended to by crews.
A Homeland Security official in Washington also told NBC News that based on the preliminary information from authorities in New York this "appears to be an accident."
"It's a tough day for New York City, but as usual, the people in New York City will stand firm and be resilient," de Blasio said.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo was being briefed at the scene.
"Today's events at Times Square were nothing short of horrific," he said in a statement.
White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer tweeted that President Donald Trump was "made aware of the situation."
The chaos initially raised fears of terrorism.
Federal officials have been warning truck owners and truck rental agencies in the U.S. to be "vigilant" about an increasing frequency of terrorist-related "ramming attacks," NBC News reported earlier this month.
The frequency of such incidents appears to coincide with an ISIS leader telling followers in 2014 to use whatever weapons or tools, including vehicles, at their disposal for an attack.
The federal report found that at least 173 people have been killed and more than 700 wounded in 17 ramming attacks around the world. Those include truck attacks in Nice, France, where dozens were killed last July, and in Berlin, where a dozen people were killed in December.