TRAFFIC ALERT:

CONSTRUCTION I-95 SB off-ramp to Philips closed 

ON AIR NOW

LISTEN NOW

Weather

cloudy-day Created with Sketch.
76°
Few Clouds
H 80° L 62°
  • cloudy-day Created with Sketch.
    76°
    Current Conditions
    Clear. H 80° L 62°
  • clear-night
    63°
    Morning
    Clear. H 80° L 62°
  • clear-day Created with Sketch.
    78°
    Afternoon
    Mostly Sunny. H 82° L 62°
LISTEN
PAUSE
ERROR

The latest top stories

00:00 | 00:00

LISTEN
PAUSE
ERROR

The latest traffic report

00:00 | 00:00

LISTEN
PAUSE
ERROR

The latest forecast

00:00 | 00:00

National
SXSW tragedy: 2 killed, 23 hurt as car speeds through crowd
Close

SXSW tragedy: 2 killed, 23 hurt as car speeds through crowd

SXSW tragedy: 2 killed, 23 hurt as car speeds through crowd

SXSW tragedy: 2 killed, 23 hurt as car speeds through crowd

Trending on Facebook

More trending stories

Fleeing a routine early morning traffic stop in downtown Austin, a suspected drunken driver crashed through a police barricade and sped down a street crowded with South by Southwest festival-goers, killing two and leaving a horrific trail of injured pedestrians over two blocks before hitting a taxi and a parked van.

Twenty-three people were taken to area hospitals. Two remain in critical condition with severe head injuries. Six others also remained hospitalized Thursday afternoon, including three in serious condition with injuries that include a spinal fracture, head injuries and other problems.

“The two critical patients I have a great deal of concern and worry about,” said Dr. Christopher Ziebell, emergency room director at University Medical Center Brackenridge. “Not everyone with these injuries survives.”

>> Read more trending stories  

The driver — identified as Rashad Charjuan Owens, 21, of Killeen — was struck with a police taser and arrested as he tried to flee on foot. He was treated for minor injuries at University Medical Center Brackenridge and released into police custody, where he will face two charges of capital murder and 23 counts of aggravated assault with a vehicle.

“That vehicle was used as a weapon, and he will be charged with those crimes,” Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo said.

One of the dead, a Dutch musician and music agency employee identified as Steven Craenmehr, was riding a bicycle near the intersection of East 11th and Red River streets when struck. The other, an Austin woman on a moped, also was killed. Both were pronounced dead at the scene, officials said.

Another rider on the moped, a man, was injured.

The incident began around 12:30 a.m. Thursday when an Austin police officer tried to pull over a suspected drunken driver on the Interstate 35 frontage road. The driver pulled into a Shell gas station at East Ninth Street, using his turn signal and “feinting as if to yield” before speeding the wrong way down down Ninth Street, Acevedo said.

The suspect turned right onto Red River, crashing through a barricade and forcing a uniformed police officer to leap out of the way to avoid being struck, Acevedo said.

Red River, which was closed to vehicles, is home to many popular clubs that were hosting South by Southwest music showcases, and horrified music fans watched as the speeding four-door sedan slammed repeatedly into pedestrians, a bicyclist, moped and a taxi before jumping a sidewalk and striking a van in a parking lot, Acevedo said.

While the suspect was being chased down and arrested, witnesses sprang into action to help the wounded, shaking off the shock to help stanch the bleeding or merely hold hands in comfort, live music playing in the background.

Emergency crews, deployed throughout downtown for South by Southwest, arrived within minutes via motorcycle, bicycle and small off-road vehicles.

Frequent training in handling mass casualties paid off, said James Shamard, chief of staff for the Austin/Travis County Emergency Medical Services, as the first crews to arrive began to triage patients. Cards marked with red were placed with five of the most critically injured, who were taken to nearby University Medical Center Brackenridge within 15 minutes, Shamard said.

Five victims with lesser injuries were given cards marked in yellow and taken to St. David’s Hospital and South Austin Medical Center within 21 minutes, Shamard said. Thirteen tagged with green cards, indicating non-life-threatening injuries, were taken to other hospitals within 50 minutes, he said.

Black-marked tags were placed on the man and woman who were pronounced dead at the scene, Shamard said.

Most of the pedestrians hit were between Ninth and 10th streets, said Acevedo, who urged anybody who witnessed the crashes to call Austin police at 512-974-5186.

Police will reassess procedures used to block off streets during special events, as is common after a tragedy, Acevedo said, “but when somebody acts intentionally, it’s very difficult to stop.”

A person “willing to drive down a street, mowing people down, will crash through or go around a barricade,” he said. “This is an individual that showed no regard for the human beings he plowed through … to get away.”

Sturdier barricades can pose other problems for emergency crews and vehicles that need access to widespread events such as South by Southwest, he said.

The suspect, Owens, was booked into Travis County Jail at 5:44 a.m. No bail was set.

Police obtained a search warrant for blood samples to assess Owens’ blood-alcohol level and are awaiting results, Acevedo said.

Acevedo said he urged South by Southwest managers to continue with planned events. “We cannot allow one individual, through his selfish acts … to ruin a wonderful event, a worldwide event,” he said.

Roland Swenson, managing director of SXSW, said staff are contacting all venues to determine if events will change. Several cancellations have been announced.

“As much as we’d like to go home and spend time absorbing the shock of this horrific event, we feel our best use is to continue to operate today,” Swenson said. “We will announce changes to the schedule as they occur today.”

In the hectic moments after the series of crashes early Thursday, witnesses described a chaotic scene.

Scott Jakota, a musician from Indiana in town to play SXSW, said he was one of the first people hit. He said the driver “gunned” the car, “and I was thrown up in the sky.” He appeared to have a leg injury and was being helped by his friends.

Ally Hulton, a 28-year-old from Los Angeles, was smoking a cigarette on the balcony of her friend’s apartment on Red River when she saw a car drive down the street “at full speed” before hitting someone.

It then appeared to accelerate into a crowd of people, she said.

“About 10 bodies went flying,” Hulton said.

An American-Statesman photographer on the balcony of the Mohawk nightclub at the time of the incident said he saw some bystanders attempting to provide first aid to victims while others sat stunned on curbs with their hands over their mouths. He said the band playing at the time, X, finished its set, unaware of what had happened.

Transmission Events, which owns the Mohawk, said on Twitter: “Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of the victims and injured from tonight’s tragedy. Please check and make sure everyone you know is home safe tonight.”

With additional reporting by Philip Jankowski, Peter Blackstock, Nancy Flores, Ben Wermund and Jay Janner.

Read More
VIEW COMMENTS

There are no comments yet. Be the first to post your thoughts. or Register.

The Latest News Headlines

  • One person was killed and 15 injured, at least two critically, when gunfire erupted early Sunday morning at a hip-hop nightclub in Cincinnati,Ohio. Police are searching for multiple shooters, and have not made any arrests, yet. >> Read more trending news The man who was killed at the Cameo Night Club has been identified as 27-year-old Obryan Spikes. Cincinnati Police Chief Eliot Isaac said at approximately 1:30 a.m. the emergency dispatch center began receiving calls that people had been shot at the club. A dispute erupted and several people opened fire inside the club, Isaac said. Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley asked for prayers for those injured or killed. Authorities are asking for the public’s help in identifying the shooters. The FBI and ATF are assisting in the investigation. >> Click here or scroll down for the latest
  • Alex Jones on Friday apologized to the owner of a Washington, D.C., pizzeria for spreading the fake story last year that linked the restaurant to Hillary Clinton’s campaign and human trafficking. Jones, as the Austin, Texas-based host of Infowars.com, has a long history of pushing wild and false conspiracy theories, such as claiming that the U.S. government perpetrated the 9/11 attacks or the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, was a hoax. But in a rare backtracking mea culpa, Jones apologized for his role in promoting the baseless “Pizzagate” story that went viral among right-wing bloggers and media sites during the 2016 presidential campaign. >> Watch the clip here The gist of the fake story accused Hillary Clinton and her presidential campaign chairman, John Podesta, of running a child sex abuse ring through the Comet Ping Pong restaurant owned by James Alefantis. Podesta’s comments about the pizzeria — made in Democratic Party emails exposed by WikiLeaks — became fodder for fake news web portals as well as popular user-generated content sites like Reddit and 4chan. Jones, in a statement he read aloud for his online audience, tried to put some distance between himself and the fake story and blamed “scores of media outlets,” “third-party accounts of alleged activities” and “accounts of (Infowars) reporters who are no longer with us” for the “incorrect narrative” he discussed several times on his program. >> Read more trending news “In our commentary about what had become known as Pizzagate, I made comments about Mr. Alefantis that in hindsight I regret, and for which I apologize to him,” Jones said. In language that was clearly sculpted by a legal mind hoping to avoid possible litigation, Jones added: “To my knowledge today, neither Mr. Alefantis nor his restaurant Comet Ping Pong, were involved in any human trafficking as was part of the theories about Pizzagate.” For many people, the Pizzagate conspiracy theory became part of the mainstream political discussion only in December, after 28-year-old Edgar Maddison Welch of North Carolina reportedly brought a gun into a Comet Ping Pong packed with customers, and pointed it at an employee in hopes of finding proof of “Pizzagate.” Welch surrendered to police when he found no evidence that children were being harbored there, D.C. police said at the time. He pleaded guilty to weapons and assault charges Friday, CNN reported.
  • For the second time in less than 24 hours, police have swarmed the Las Vegas Strip after at least one person was killed in a shooting near the Cosmopolitan hotel and casino. >> Related: Burglary at Bellagio Hotel and Casino prompts lockdown on Vegas strip Police said Saturday afternoon that the situation was not an active shooter situation.  The suspect peacefully surrendered around 6 p.m., according to the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department. >> Read more trending news Around 11:30 a.m. Las Vegas police reported that they were investigating a shooting that occurred on South Las Vegas Boulevard. Authorities believed an individual who was on a bus that was traveling on the strip is responsible for the shooting. Police closed portions of the strip, and set up a staging area and a barricade. Guests at the Cosmopolitan resort were evacuated. Shortly after 11 a.m., KSNV reported that at least one victim of a shooting had been transported to University Medical Center trauma in unknown condition. At 1 p.m. Saturday, authorities reported a second victim had been killed. According to USA Today, police evacuated the nearby Cosmopolitan hotel and casino shortly after 1 p.m. “The shooting incident happened on the bus,” said Larry Hadfield, a spokesman with Las Vegas Metro police. “We had one single shooting incident with two victims. Both were transported to the trauma center and one is deceased.” Hadfield said police were negotiating with the suspect Saturday afternoon in an effort to take him into custody, USA Today reported. This is a developing story. Check back for updates. 
  • Las Vegas police are investigating a burglary at a retail store in the Bellagio Hotel and Casino after an incident that occurred overnight Friday, The Associated Press reported.  >> Read more trending news Police said Saturday they believe at least three people entered the store. It was not immediately clear what items were stolen. The store was closed at the time of the burglary.  Authorities said the suspects broke into a high-end jewelry and watch store, where they may have used sledgehammers to break into the shop's jewelry cases. A witness said she saw an armed burglar wearing a pig mask near a Rolex store. Authorities said they are reviewing surveillance tape, where they saw multiple suspects wearing “character masks,” ABC News reported. According to ABC News, the Bellagio was on lockdown for approximately a half-hour after the incident. Police initially thought at least one of the theives may have fired gunshots during the burglary, but later said they believed the sound of the sledgehammers breaking the jewelry cases may have been confused for gunshots. Guests fled the hotel and casino in the midst of the incident. No one was injured.  Police have taken one suspect into custody.  Portions of the Bellagio were closed Saturday as police continue to investigate.
  • A couple has been indicted on accusations that they murdered their deaf teenage son and then burned down their house to cover up the crime, the Associated Press reported. >> Read more trending news  According to the Chenango County Sheriff’s Office in New York, Ernest F. Franklin II, 35, and his wife, Heather Franklin, 33, of Guilford, New York, were charged with second-degree murder, arson and tampering with physical evidence. The two were indicted Friday on charges of second-degree murder in the death of their adopted son, 16-year-old Jeffrey Franklin, People magazine reported. Following an investigation of a fire on March 1 at the family’s 1,300-square-foot home, the couple was arrested. Investigators believe they set fire to their home to cover up the killing of their son. An autopsy determined he died prior to the fire, according to the sheriff’s office. Local law authorities have not said how or when the boy was killed. The Franklins got married in 2011 and adopted Jeffrey six or seven years ago, the sheriff’s office said. According to People magazine, Ernest is an Iraq War veteran. Heather wrote in posts on her Facebook page that she is pregnant. The Franklins are being held without bail. They entered a plea of not guilty. “People are asking themselves, ‘How could this happen?'” Chenango County Sheriff Ernest Cutting Jr. told People magazine. “Certainly for the public here, it’s a mix of anger and frustration and disappointment.” Just days before Heather Franklin was arrested, she posted an update on her Facebook page about how much she missed her son, who she called JR. She also informed friends and family that she and her husband had added their “needs” and “wants” to the CheckedTwice.com Family Gift Registry because they lost everything in the fire. A GoFundMe page was also established, but it has been taken down. The Associated Press reported that police who responded to a 911 call about 1:15 a.m. on March 1 found the Franklin’s house, located about an hour away from Syracuse, engulfed in flames. Jeffrey was inside and unable to escape the fire, according to the sheriff’s office. Authorities initially said the cause of the fire appeared to be a wood stove, the residence’s main heating source. “People are wondering how anybody could do something so brutal to a developmentally disabled and handicapped 16-year-old boy,” Cutting told People. “There are a lot of people who would have taken him. There are organizations that would have taken care of him. Why resort to that? … It’s just a terrible, terrible tragedy.”

The Latest News Videos