Dozens of people have been injured after a 1997 Cadillac plowed into a crowd at the Trail Days Parade in the US state of Virginia.
An emergency official told local news channel WCYB that 50-60 people were injured and 12-15 patients were taken to hospitals by ambulance or helicopters. There have been no reports of fatalities and none of the injuries was believed to be life-threatening.
The car was driven by an elderly man who may have lost consciousness or “had some medical issue” and drove into the crowd, Reuters reports citing volunteer fire department chief Ben Sanders.
According to witness accounts, the car had a handicapped parking sticker. “He was hitting hikers,” said Vickie Harmon, a witness.“I saw hikers just go everywhere.”
The driver told the authorities afterward he did not remember what had happened.
“[The driver is] a previous hiker…he also had a couple of other vehicles that were in the parade – at the front of the parade,” Damascus Police Chief, Bill Nunley told the channel.
The incident occurred in the town of Damascus, VA, at around 2:10pm local time Saturday, during the annual celebration of the Appalachian Trail, a famous hiking trail in the northeast of the United States.
“The vehicle went into a crowd of about 1,000 people – it was on a bridge and they didn’t have anywhere to go, and several people including hikers and a firefighter were able to open the door on the vehicle and reach in and turn the ignition off while it was in motion,” Nunley continued, stating that the crash resulted in multiple injuries.
The car had bored into the crowd at car about 25 mph. Lucky escapees pitched in to offer assistance to the wounded.
“We didn’t know how many we had…hikers were able to pick up a 1997 Cadillac and pull individuals from underneath it – I’ve never seen anything like that before,” said Nunley.
One young child, who turned up at the parade to squirt water-guns at hikers, said that one of his potential targets saved his life.
“We heard screams behind us, and [a hiker] sort of pushed us out of the way from it, and me, and all of us, we looked back and saw…misery. Hikers on top, hikers under the bottom of the car, and it just kept going,” said Dalton Thompson, describing accompanying screams.
“It was unreal…like, nothing could be as scary as that. I couldn’t find my dad or anyone,” he told WCYB.
The injured were taken to area hospitals, including seven to Johnston Memorial in Abingdon and one flown to the Johnston City Medical Center, according to the channel. Bristol Regional Medical Center had two patients flown in, but were prepared for a considerably worse scenario. One of those two has already been discharged.
“In 27 years of this, we’ve never had anything of this magnitude,” Mayor Jack McCrady told AP.