A vehicle driving through New York City’s bustling Times Square plowed into a crowd, killing a woman and injuring 22 other people during Thursday’s lunchtime rush, authorities said.
Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) said during an afternoon news conference that there is no indication the incident was related to terrorism. He said it was a “tough day for New York City but, as usual, the people of New York City will stand firm.”
Just minutes before noon, a maroon Honda Accord made a U-turn on Seventh Avenue and started speeding the wrong way from 42nd to 45th Street, according to authorities and witnesses.
People described the horror on social media, saying a car had driven onto a sidewalk in Times Square, mowed down pedestrians and crashed. Witnesses said the wounded were “laying on the sidewalks” and others were “screaming and running, the place is swarming with emergency vehicles and cops.” Those in the area were told to shelter in place while emergency crews swarmed the scene.
The vehicle sat smoldering, eerily tilted on one side, at the corner of 45th Street.
Joshua Duboff, who works at the nearby Thomson Reuters headquarters, said he was walking to get lunch when he heard a loud screech, then saw a car make an aggressive turn from 42nd Street, swerve and pop the curb.
Duboff said he thought it was swerving to avoid an accident but then saw it “plowing through people.”
“I realized it wasn’t going to stop anytime soon and I had to make a quick decision,” he said, adding: “I basically jumped out of the way as the car was approaching me. I barely missed it.”
Duboff, a 32-year-old product manager for sports and entertainment at Thomson Reuters, said he does not remember the few seconds after that but he has minor cuts on his knees, which makes him think he fell on them.
He said people who were injured were “yelling” and “crying” and he saw the woman who died, lying not far behind him. He said it was tragic but “it could have been so much worse than it was” because of the number of people in Times Square.
Authorities said Rojas, the driver, who is from the Bronx, is a U.S. Navy veteran with a criminal history that includes two arrests for driving while intoxicated — once in 2008 and again in 2015. Immediately after the crash Thursday he reportedly tried to flee the scene on foot, and a door host supervisor at nearby Planet Hollywood struck him to try to stop him, according to the Associated Press.
The Associated Press reported that the Planet Hollywood employee and another bystander tackled Rojas and held him until police arrived.
Rojas was taken into custody and was being tested for drugs and alcohol, police said. Police have not released the results of those tests.
This story has been updated.