About 60 people were injured Saturday when a car plowed into participants and spectators at the Appalachian Trail Days parade in Damascus, Va., sending hundreds of people scattering amid shouts and screams.
Nine people were taken to hospitals after the incident at the annual trail festival, but none of their injuries appeared to be life-threatening, said Pokey Harris, director of emergency management in Washington County, Va. The county is about 300 miles southwest of the District.
Authorities had feared that it was going to be “much more serious,” said Damascus Town Council member Peg Ayers.
Damascus police chief William H. Nunley said the driver had apparently been affected by a medical condition. The condition was not specified.One news account indicated that he may have been elderly.
The vehicle, which had been in the parade, was apparently traveling about 20 to 25 miles an hour when it ran into the crowd about 2:10 p.m. authorities said. People fled, shouting and yelling, Harris said.
There was “some immediate panic,” but law enforcement and rescue personnel and others quickly went to the aid of the injured, Ayers said.
“Everybody was able to jump in immediately,” she said.
The driver, who was not identified, was also taken to a trauma center, Harris said. She said his condition was not known. He may have been involved with several classic cars that were in the parade, she said. The accident was “caused by a medical emergency,” said Joseph Straten, t he Washington County supervisor whose district includes Damascus. It was “not anything deliberate,” he said.
About 50 or 60 people received a wide range of injuries , including “everything from the superficial, bangs and bruises,” to the more serious, Harris said.
As of about 6:50 p.m. it appeared that most of those taken to hospitals had been discharged. Harris said it was possible that only two remained at the hospitals Saturday night.
Most of those injured were apparently in the parade, Harris said, but others may also have been among the injured. Damascus town police chief Nunley said in a news release that the car, a 1997 Cadillac, drove into about 1,000 people who were participating in the parade or were bystanders.
The parade is an annual event and part of a three day trail festival in Damascus.
Ayers said some long distance hikers line up according to the year in which they hiked the length of the trail. The event takes on aspects of a family reunion, she said.
Participants come from all over, Harris said, and the majority of those injured apparently came from outside the Southwest Virginia area.
The town is about two miles from the border between Virginia and Tennessee, and not far from t he border with North Carolina.
Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine (D) had been at the festival earlier. On his twitter account it said he had had a “great time” learning about whittling.
But he said, he was “stunned by news of hikers hit...A tragic event at a normally joyous celebration.” He said he was “praying for the recovery of the injured.”