A car driven at high speed by a woman suspected of being under the influence of alcohol plowed into crowds watching a homecoming parade at Oklahoma State University on Saturday, killing at least three people and injuring more than 30 others.
Witnesses described bodies being flung dozens of feet into the air as the gray Hyundai Elantra slammed into the throng at the intersection of Main Street and Hall of Fame Avenue in Stillwater, some 80 miles (130 km) northeast of Oklahoma City, as the parade celebrating the school’s homecoming was ending.
In addition to the three fatalities, some 35 other people were injured in the crash, including eight critically, according to a statement from the office of Stillwater Mayor Gina Noble.
Nine victims were transported to Stillwater Medical Center in serious condition and 17 went to hospitals under their own power, the statement said. At least five of the most seriously injured patients were children.
“We are heartbroken about the tragedy, and our hearts and prayers are with the families of those who died and are injured,” Noble said
The driver, identified as 25-year-old Adacia Avery Chambers, was taken into custody on suspicion of driving while under the influence of alcohol, said Captain Kyle Gibbs of the Stillwater Police.
“I’ve been here 29 years and I can’t recall an incident of this magnitude,” Gibbs told reporters at the scene.
The suspect does not appear to have been a student at Oklahoma State University, Gibbs said. The mayor’s statement said she was a resident of Stillwater.
“At first we thought it was part of the show,” Konda Walker, a 1991 graduate of OSU, told the local Stillwater News Press. “People were flying 30 feet (9 meters) into the air like rag dolls.”
Dave Kapple of Houston, Texas, told the paper that he was about 10 feet away when the car came barreling through the crowd of spectators at the end of the parade, just blocks from campus.
“We heard somebody scream, ‘Look out!’ (The car) plowed through a police motorcycle, and then a crowd of people,” he said. “People were flying everywhere.”
Hours later the intersection was still littered with clothes, blankets, lawn chairs and water bottles belonging to the victims. Streets were blocked off and secured by members of the National Guard.Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin said on Twitter that she was en route to Stillwater and that her thoughts and prayers were with those affected.
After the crash, Oklahoma State University said it decided against canceling its homecoming football game, which went ahead as planned against Kansas and was dedicated to the victims.
“We are shocked and heartbroken by this horrible tragedy. The Oklahoma State University Homecoming parade is the most wholesome of events and to have it marred in such a way is incomprehensible,” the school’s president, V. Burns Hargis, said.
“The Cowboy Family is devastated by events at this morning’s homecoming parade,” the school said on its website.