A speeding car has ploughed into crowds in New York’s Times Square, killing one and injuring at least 22 more.
The car struck pedestrians near 42nd Street and 7th Avenue in Midtown Manhattan, per The Independent, and while NYC Police Department says it’s not terror-related, the man responsible was apparently acting deliberately.
The driver of the vehicle has been identified as Navy veteran Richard Rojas, per the ABC, who upon arrest shouted, “You were supposed to shoot me! I wanted to kill them”.
Per news.com.au, police said Rojas made a quick U-turn onto 42nd Street and then drove up the sidewalk for three blocks, passing tourist haunts like the Hard Rock Cafe and the Bubba Gump Shrimp Company restaurant, mowing down pedestrians before slamming into a pole.
Rojas, who has been twice arrested for driving under the influence, had no alcohol in his system but per Daily Mail, had reportedly been smoking K2, the infamous synthetic marijuana prior to the crash, which has been linked to psychotic episodes.
New York’s Times Square sees hundreds of thousands of people, many of them tourists, pass through the bustling commercial area every day. It’s also the heart of the Broadway theatre district.
Per the ABC, police have been patrolling the area in huge numbers since the incident. There’s usually a strong police presence anyway, and many footpaths are lined with barricades out of fear for pedestrian safety, given recent vehicle attacks like this one seen in Britain, France, Germany and Sweden.
A bomb squad was also called to inspect the vehicle, and the popular tourist destination remains under heavy police guard.
There is no telling when they may be reopened as the NYPD investigation continues, an Office of Emergency Management spokesman said.
Per AM New York, city officials are urging motorists to avoid the area near Times Square.
Despite the street closures, Broadway shows were expected to continue as scheduled. Ticketholders are being advised to enter Times Square via Sixth or Eighth avenues based on the street location of the theatre.
Per media reports, the one fatality was 18-year-old Alyssa Elsman, a tourist from Michigan who was visiting the city with her family. She was walking with her 13-year-old sister when she was struck, while her sister sustained injuries.
Per news.com.au, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop told reporters in New York that no Australians had been hurt.
A number of witnesses have spoken to media about the incident.
— James Law (@JournoLawJ) May 18, 2017
“People were being hit and rolling off the car,” said Josh Duboff, an employee at the adjacent Thomson Reuters headquarters who jumped out of the way to avoid being hit, per ABC.
The ABC also reported that Australian John Cox was on 42nd Street when the incident happened.
“The scene here is really terrible. There is a lot of New Yorkers and tourists standing around really devastated and there’s hundreds and hundreds of police officers,” he said.
Daniel Nigro, commissioner of the New York City Fire Department, told media four people suffered critical injuries “with open fractures and trauma,” while three additional pedestrians had serious injuries and 15 people suffered more minor injuries.
Warning: the following Tweet contains graphic images of the attack in action and may cause distress:
— Kevin W. (@kwilli1046) May 19, 2017
Lead image: Charles Guerin / BestImage / BACKGRID