Panic swept Times Square on Thursday after a car veered onto the wrong side of the road and struck several pedestrians, killing one person and injuring at least 22 others, according to the New York City Fire Department. The incident occurred in the midst of a lunch rush in one of Manhattan's busiest hubs.
Shortly after the crash, police took the driver into custody. Authorities believe that Richard Rojas—the 26-year-old Bronx man behind the wheel—might've been driving under the influence. Cops are now reportedly testing him for drugs and alcohol. According to Mayor Bill de Blasio, the incident was not linked to terrorism, CBS New York reports.
Rojas allegedly swerved onto the wrong side of the road at about noon, vaulting the sidewalk and hitting several pedestrians before crashing into a busy street corner, ABC News reports. He rammed his maroon Honda Accord into a row of steel barriers, leaving the car tilted with its right wheels off the ground. The vehicle then caught fire.
A witness told ABC Rojas hopped out of his car and ran across the street before police tackled him. He allegedly punched a police officer as he was being apprehended, law enforcement told ABC.
"I was in shock, I was screaming," witness Kristen Boyce told NBC New York. "No one even saw it coming. All of a sudden I heard this boom and a car is barreling down Seventh Avenue hitting people, just, Boom! Boom! And everyone just starts running...We start running, we don't know if another one is going to come, we don't know what's happening, everyone is panicking."
Julie Fallo, a Hoboken native, told DNAinfo it looked like Rojas was accelerating into people. "Bodies were flying, he was running over people, it was like nothing I'd ever seen," she said. "People were trying to get off the street...he never slowed down. He gunned it right into the people."
According to de Blasio, one 18-year-old woman was killed in the incident. Her 13-year-old sister was among the 22 injured in the crash—four of which are currently in critical condition.
"None of those four are likely to perish," fire commissioner Daniel Nigro told the BBC. "There are a very large amount of fire department, police department resources here very quickly and thanks to that, people received care in a very timely fashion."
Rojas, a Navy vet, has been arrested twice for driving while intoxicated, and has other driving-related offenses, authorities told ABC.
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