A pickup careened through a Mardi Gras parade crowd in New Orleans on Saturday, pinning some people and hurling others through the air, injuring at least 28.
Officials said the driver was intoxicated. There were no reports of deaths, but witness accounts recalled deadly crashes such as an apparent accident at a California farmers market that killed 10 people in 2003 and a truck driver’s attack on a Bastille Day crowd in France last year, which killed dozens.
“The worst thing I’ve ever seen in my life,” a spectator told the New Orleans Advocate.
Stuck in traffic, the truck driver looked impatient just before the crash Saturday evening, another witness told the Times-Picayune newspaper.
The driver was seen trying to weave through cars alongside the massive Krewe of Endymion parade, which bills itself as the largest at Mardi Gras — boasting thousands of riders and enormous LED-strewn floats, including a nine-section depiction of an amusement park.
The Mardi Gras season draws about 1 million people to New Orleans, according to the Times-Picayune.
On the other side of Carrollton Avenue from the weaving pickup, a crowd watched Endymion’s marching band pass.
The truck driver then “appeared to accelerate,” the Times-Picayune reported. He struck two cars and spun sideways toward the crowd.
“There were bodies flying off the hood while he was still driving,” Trey Klechak told the Times-Picayune.
He said a woman who had walked across the truck’s path flew through the air, her wig landing among wreckage in the street.
The pickup hurtled through the crowd, injuring a police officer and a child among more than two dozen others, the Times-Picayune reported.
It did not stop until it slammed into a dump truck, pinning people between the vehicles.
A surreal mixture of carnage and revelry followed the crash. The Advocate reported “drunken onlookers with beers in their hands” while the parade kept rolling and the injured lay on the street. “One man could be seen with blood streaming down his head,” it reported.
Nearly two dozen people were taken to a hospital, five with critical injuries, the Time-Picayune reported.
“The pickup’s driver could be heard cursing through the vehicle’s open window,” the newspaper said.
A 25-year-old identified by police as Neilson Rizzuto was photographed in handcuffs moments later. He faces charges of reckless driving, causing serious injury and hit-and-run driving.
“We suspect he was highly intoxicated,” Police Chief Michael Harrison told reporters.
An emergency services director said the injured included a 3-year-old and a police officer, with the latter in “good spirits,” according to the Associated Press.
The Times-Picayune reported that the Endymion parade paused for just 10 minutes after the crash.