Two dead, many injured, after fleeing driver plows into crowd at South by Southwest festival

Two people died and 23 others were injured early Thursday after a driver being pursued by police smashed into a crowd celebrating at the South By Southwest festival in Austin.

The driver will be charged with capital murder, police said.

Senior police officer Jermaine Kilgore told The Washington Post that the suspect drove through temporary barricades set up for the festival at 9th and Red River streets after a police officer attempted to make a traffic stop on the vehicle. The suspect then fled, going the wrong way on 9th Street, a one-way street, and drove into the crowd, striking several pedestrians and colliding with a moped and a taxi.

After the suspect came to a stop, he attempted to flee on foot. He was eventually tased and taken into custody, Kilgore said.

Police Lt. Brian Moon said the two victims were confirmed dead at the scene, along a block where several clubs are located. The others were taken to various hospitals. The incident occurred about 12:30 a.m. Central time.

Yvette Ruiz, 27, of Austin, told The Post she was attending the festival when she and her boyfriend saw the car break through the barricade and continue north, plowing through “clusters” of festival-goers.

“I could hear the rev of the engine and people screaming,” she said. “I turned around to see people falling off the hood of the car…. There was a lot of blood everywhere. People on the street. People on the sidewalk. It was barricaded. It was supposed to be safe.”

Colin Kerrigan, 25, told the Associated Press he was leaving an assignment at Stubb’s BBQ, just down the street, moments after the accident occurred.

The freelance journalist raced over to the Mohawk club, where the car hit, and found emergency rescue workers scrambling to help victims as police sirens blared and a helicopter circled overhead.

“As I’m walking up, I see one person down and another person down, and then I see more and more as I’m looking down Red River Street,” Kerrigan said. “People on the sidewalks — the people who witnessed the whole thing — were crying and in shock. It was a scene that I did not expect to see at SXSW. I know things get crazy, but nothing like a tragedy.”

Kilgore later said the police officer pursuing the car suspected the driver might be intoxicated.

Follow our live coverage of SXSW with The Post’s pop music critic Chris Richards.


Unidentified people are comforted after being struck by a vehicle on Red River Street in downtown Austin, Texas, during SXSW on Wednesday March 12, 2014. Police say two people were confirmed dead at the scene after a car drove through temporary barricades set up for the South By Southwest festival and struck a crowd of pedestrians. (Jay Janner/AP Photo/Austin American-Statesman)

 

Lindsey Bever is a national news reporter for The Washington Post. She writes for the Morning Mix news blog. Tweet her: @lindseybever
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