One person was killed and at least 22 were injured on Thursday when a car careened through Times Square and plowed through a crowd of pedestrians in one of New York City’s most congested corridors, officials said.
The 26-year-old driver appeared to have been either drunk or impaired by drugs and had been arrested twice for drunken driving, officials said. The preliminary evidence indicated that the episode was not terrorism-related, officials said.
“Based on information we have at this moment, there is no indication that this was an act of terrorism,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said at a news conference Thursday afternoon in Times Square.
The conditions of the injured victims was not known.
Witnesses described the horror of seeing the car traveling at high speeds through the neighborhood, which was packed with tourists, workers and many others on a sultry afternoon, and the mayhem in one of the world’s busiest and most famous plazas immediately evoked fears that it had been a deliberate act.
Annie Donahey, 24, had just left work on Seventh Avenue between 42nd and 43rd streets when the car, a maroon Honda, sped past her and slammed into pedestrians on the sidewalk.
“It was going at a fast rate of speed and to me it looked like it was trying to hit as many people as possible,” she said. “People were trying to jump out of the way.”
The exact route traveled by the car was not immediately known before it came to rest at the northwest corner of 45th Street and Broadway. The Honda sat tilted on bollards, its right wheels off the ground, its front hood crumpled and trunk open, as detectives and investigators canvassed the area. Photo
The police responded to an injury after a vehicle struck pedestrians in Times Square in New York on Thursday. Credit via Reuters
A few blocks away, Sharif White, who sells T-shirts and hats on the corner of 44th Street and Seventh Avenue, stood next to the body of a woman on her back on the sidewalk, who was surrounded by paramedics.
“It hit her,” he said, pointing to the woman. “And it hit a couple of other people. Then the next thing I know it went straight down to 45th. It just was doing like about 100 miles per hour and then the car crashed.”
The car’s bumper sat on 44th and Seventh in the middle of the sidewalk.
Magdy Tawfik, a hot dog vendor near the corner, said the car had struck three people there.
“The car sped through here, it was moving so fast, and it crushed all these people,” he said.
A Police Department spokesman said the driver of the car had been taken into custody. The law enforcement official said the driver was from the Bronx. The police had taped off many of blocks around Times Square.
TIMES SQUARE — A Navy vet with a history of drunk driving jumped the curb in the middle of crowded Times Square and sped along the sidewalk, killing one young woman and leaving at least 22 people hurt before being tackled and arrested, officials said.
Richard Rojas, 26, who officials said had two prior arrests for drunk driving, was driving southbound on Seventh Avenue when he pulled a U-turn at West 42nd Street and veered north onto the sidewalk on Broadway just before noon, officials said.
As panicked tourists dove for cover, he plowed his maroon 2009 Honda Accord through several blocks of pedestrians on the sidewalk before crashing to a halt against a metal stanchion near the George Abbott Way pedestrian plaza south of the TKTS booth, according to officials.
"Bodies were flying, he was running over people, it was like nothing I’d ever seen," said Julie Fallo of Hoboken, who was visiting in Times Square with her daughter and niece. "Everyone thought it was a terrorist attack and ran into buildings screaming. People were trying to get off the street... he never slowed down. He gunned it right into the people. He looked like he accelerated."
"There was bodies everywhere, flying left and right."
There were at least 22 people hurt, including four people who were taken to area hospitals in critical condition, FDNY Commissioner Daniel Nigro said.
An 18-year-old woman was killed, according to Mayor Bill de Blasio, who spoke at a press conference from the scene. Her 13-year-old sister was also injured in the crash, according to Assistant Chief William Aubry.
Rojas tried to make a run for it before being tackled by several good Samaritans and an NYPD traffic enforcement agent, Aubry said.
Police led Rojas, a Navy vet with a criminal record, in handcuffs through Times Square and put him into a police SUV, and took him to Midtown North police precinct for questioning, officials said.
The mayor said the calamity did not appear to be related to terrorism.
Out of an abundance of caution, bomb-sniffing dogs were brought to the scene just after 12:15 p.m. and the entire stretch of Seventh Ave. between 42nd and 57th streets was closed in both directions.
The streets and sidewalks were full of tourists during the unseasonably warm temperatures.
Kelly Graves, 54, of Wisconsin, who was visiting NYC on vacation, said she was near the Disney store on Broadway between 45th and 46th streets when she heard a crash.
"We saw groups of people lying on the sidewalk on the next block over, also in front of the car we saw a Gray Line ticket person laying on the ground with police surrounding him. he was injured. all of a sudden the car caught on fire. The police made us get back," Graves said. "People screamed, they were running away... it was total chaos."
Witnesses said they were afraid the crash may have been an act of terrorism.
"One of the cops said we should get back because they didn't know if there was a bomb," said Alex Ashton, 21, visiting from Georgia with her mother.