Car plows into crowd at Oklahoma parade, killing 3, injuring dozens

Car plows into crowd at Oklahoma parade, killing 3, injuring dozens

STILLWATER, Oklahoma - Reuters
Car plows into crowd at Oklahoma parade, killing 3, injuring dozens

A wrecked police motorcycle lays on the scene after a suspected drunk driver crashed into a crowd of spectators during the Oklahoma State University homecoming parade near the Boone Pickens Stadium on October 24, 2015 in Stillwater, Oklahoma. AFP photo

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 Oct. 24, 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. 

Authorities said the car crashed through barricades and struck an unmanned police motorcycle before barreling through the spectators. 

In addition to the three fatalities, some 35 other people were injured in the 10:30 a.m. 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." 

Megan Lantz of Ponca City, Oklahoma, told the Oklahoman newspaper that about 100 people were standing on the corner at the time the car, going between 45 and 50 mph (72-80 kph), struck the crowd. 

"We were facing the parade and heard tires squealing and then started to hear the car hitting things and people and there was screaming and people running away," Lantz, 32, told the paper for a story on its website. 

Hours later the car was still resting, crumpled, against a lamppost on Main street, the intersection 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. Some 25,000 students attend the university. 

"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.