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One killed as car drives into crowd in New York’s Times Square; no indication of terrorism

A car plowed into pedestrians at the busy tourist destination Times Square in New York today, killing one person and leaving 22 others injured.
India TV News Desk New York May 18, 2017 23:51 IST
India TV News Desk

A car plowed into pedestrians at the busy tourist destination Times Square in New York today, killing one person and leaving 22 others injured, authorities said. 

Amid fears of a possible terrorism link to the incident, the New York Police Department said it appears to be an "isolated incident" and is being investigated. 

The driver was later identified as 26-year-old Richard Rojas, U.S. Navy veteran, and appeared intoxicated. He drove his car the wrong way up a Times Square street  and plowed into pedestrians on the sidewalk, killing a teenager and injuring 22 other people.

The driver was taken into custody and being tested for alcohol.

"One male in custody in the #TimesSquare vehicle collision. It is believed to be an isolated incident, it remains under investigation," he NYPD said in a tweet. 

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said US President Donald Trump "has been made aware" of the incident. Trump "will continue to receive updates", Spicer tweeted. 

The NYPD said that "due to a vehicle collision" that resulted in injuries to pedestrians, emergency vehicles were in Times Square, the hugely crowded tourist destination in Manhattan. 

Images on social media showed the car with a smoking hood slightly overturned on a barrier at a sidewalk in Times Square. 

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo was headed to the scene. 

Emergency response crews, including ambulances and fire trucks, were on the scene, which had been cordoned off. 

The crash occurred during lunchtime here with hundreds of thousands of people on the street. With the advent of summers, it is peak tourist time in one of the most popular destinations in the world. The vehicle barreled through the prime tourist location and came to rest with two of its wheels in the air. The car leaned on a lamppost and steel barriers intended to block vehicles from getting onto the sidewalk.

The incident brought to mind similar ones across the world, including the terror attack in Nice, France when a large truck plowed through a Bastille Day crowd last year killing over 70 people. In December, a truck had plowed into a Christmas market in Berlin, killing 12 people and injuring about 50. 

In 2010, Times Square was the target of an attempted car bombing. Pakistan-born Faisal Shahzad was arrested and charged with carrying out the failed terror plot. 

Police do not suspect a link to terrorism

The crash happened midday on a hot, clear day that brought large crowds of people into the streets to enjoy the good weather. Video posted online showed steam or smoke pouring from the car for a few moments after it stopped moving.

After the car struck a barricade and stopped, the driver climbed out of his vehicle, Lowe said.

“He just started running until people tackled him down,” Lowe said. “Citizens just reacted.”

The driver, 26-year-old Richard Rojas, was taken into custody and was undergoing tests for alcohol and drugs, Police Commissioner James O’Neill said. Rojas had been arrested at least twice previously for driving while intoxicated, once in 2008 and once in 2015, police said. He was in custody, and it wasn’t clear if he had an attorney yet who could comment on his behalf.

The crash killed an 18-year-old woman and the injured included her 13-year-old sister, police said.

Police do not suspect a link to terrorism, but the vehicle was checked by the bomb squad and certain city landmarks were getting a beefed up police presence.

“Out of an abundance of caution,” Mayor Bill de Blasio added.

Police said Rojas made a quick U-turn onto 42nd Street and then drove up the sidewalk for three blocks, passing tourist draws like the Hard Rock Cafe and the Bubba Gump Shrimp Company restaurant and mowing people down before slamming into a pole. He was combative with officers arresting him, authorities said.

(With agencies)