Tourist killed, 20 hurt after driver plows car into crowd in busy Times Square

Thursday, May 18, 2017 07:13PM
Jim Dolan reports from Times Square.


TIMES SQUARE, Manhattan - A tourist visiting New York City was killed and nearly two dozen people were injured after the driver of a car drove up the sidewalk in the middle of a busy Times Square Thursday.

It happened just before noon near 44th Street and Seventh Avenue -- the heart of Times Square near Broadway. Police said the driver of a Honda drove at a high rate of speed the wrong way up the sidewalk along Seventh Avenue, plowing into pedestrians before crashing and coming to a stop.

Video shows the moment of impact when the car stuck a metal pole:

An 18-year-old tourist from Michigan died at the scene, officials said. She's been identified as Alyssa Elsman. Her 13-year-old sister was with her at the time, and was injured in the incident.

Twenty others were injured. Four of them are in critical condition, three are in serious condition -- and all are expected to survive.

PHOTOS: Car plows into crowd in Times Square

The NYPD released a statement, saying, "It is believed to be an isolated incident, it remains under investigation." Officials added that there is no indication that this was an act of terror.

The driver, identified as 26-year-old Richard Rojas from the Bronx, allegedly attempted to flee after the crash but was quickly taken into police custody. Sources said he punched a police officer as they took him into custody. He's a U.S. citizen and a Naval veteran.

Law enforcement sources said they believe he had smoked synthetic marijuana (K2) prior to the crash -- causing him to be extremely impaired.

Here's video showing police walking Rojas from the police precinct:
Raw video: Police walk driver after Times Square crash

City officials said Rojas has two prior driving-while-intoxicated arrests and other motor vehicle violations on his record. His last arrest was on menacing charges for allegedly putting a knife to a man's throat.

He is now being tested for drugs. Charges are pending.

VIDEO FROM THE SCENE MOMENTS AFTER THE CRASH:
VIDEO: Aftermath of Times Square car crash

Police said Rojas drove at a high rate of speed from West 42nd Street to West 45th Street. His vehicle was stopped by a metal stanchion at West 45th Street. The car appeared to catch fire, as smoke was seen coming up from it.

Witnesses said the driver appeared to intentionally drive into a group of people, but police are still investigating the motive.

Watch an interview with one of the witnesses:
Eyewitness describes scene in Times Square that left 1 dead, 19 hurt

Here are the current road closures:

- 42 Street to 49 Street from 6th Avenue to 8th Avenue
- No crosstown traffic in this area
- No southbound traffic from 7th Avenue and Broadway from 48 Street
- S/B FDR 42 Street exit closed
- N/B FDR 23 Street exit closed

NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio and Gov. Andrew Cuomo went to the scene and met with investigators.

Safety procedures in Times Square may have saved lives in this still terrible tragedy. Nina Pineda has the story:
Did safety procedures prevent bigger tragedy in Tmes Square?
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