Police: 2 dead after man ‘intentionally’ drives into SXSW crowd
People are treated 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. (AP Photo/Austin American-Statesman, Jay Janner)
AUSTIN, Texas — A suspected drunken driver barreled through police barricades and drove down a crowded street at the South by Southwest festival early Thursday morning, killing two people and injuring 23 in an act authorities say was intentional.
The driver struck multiple pedestrians at about 12:30 a.m. on a block filled with concertgoers, continued down the street and hit and killed a man from the Netherlands on a bicycle and a woman from Austin on a moped, Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo said at a news conference Thursday. The driver eventually crashed and was taken into custody.
“... When somebody acts intentionally, it’s very difficult to stop. You have a car here. You have a police officer that was forced to jump out of the way,” Acevedo said Thursday.
The driver, whose name also has not been released, faces two counts of capital murder and 23 counts of aggravated assault with a vehicle. Acevedo said it was an “intentional act,” and that the suspect has been booked and formal charges will be filed this afternoon.
Two people were in critical condition Thursday morning with life-threatening head injuries and three patients remain in serious condition, said Dr. Christopher Ziebell, the emergency department director at the University Medical Center-Brackenridge said. The driver was treated for minor injuries.
“The most critical patients I have a great deal of concern for,” Ziebell said. “We are going to do our best for them, but these are some of the worst injuries that we see and not everybody with these kinds of injuries is going to survive.”
Massive Music, a company with offices in Amsterdam, New York and London, said employee Steven Craenmehr, 35, died suddenly in Austin. No one at the company responded to phone messages requesting additional information. The names of the woman who died and those who were injured were not released.
Police said the incident started when an officer on a drunken-driving patrol tried to stop the silver Toyota sedan at a gas station a few blocks away. The car took off, weaving between parked cars then driving at high speed the wrong way down a one-way street. The driver rammed through police barriers — three wooden pieces held up by metal poles — set up on Red River Street on the northeast edge of the entertainment district. It’d had been packed with revelers just minutes earlier, but officials had cleared the area to create a fire lane. Acevedo said authorities are still investigating, and asked witnesses and those who may have taken video to contact police rather than post it on the Internet. The festival will continue, SXSW managing director Roland Swenson said Thursday morning.
“It would cause more problems for people to show up and be turned away than to carry on,” Swenson said.