Updated at 7 a.m. Vanessa Quilantan contributed reporting.
Two people were killed and 23 injured early this morning when a suspected drunk driver, speeding away from police after an attempted DWI stop, plowed through an Austin street crowded with SXSW partygoers.
At a 2:30 a.m. press conference, Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo told reporters that the incident started with a 12:30 a.m. traffic stop at a gas station on 9th Street. The suspect, described by Acevedo as a lone black male, was pulled over in a grey sedan on suspicion of DWI.
In an attempt to evade police, the suspect accelerated against traffic down one-way 9th Street, and turned on Red River. He struck two adults on a moped and a taxi cab, and injured 23 people total before attempting to flee on foot. Officers had to tase the suspect in order to take him into custody, Acevedo said.
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Two victims were pronounced dead, he said, while five remained in critical condition. One victim was resuscitated with CPR on the scene. The suspect will face two charges of capital murder and 23 charges of aggravated assault with a vehicle, Acevedo said. Neither the suspect nor any victims were identified.
Standing outside the Mohawk earlier, in line to see an earlier section of the Vans showcase outside which the tragedy occurred, it was obvious that the street was not only closed but well stocked with volunteers and staff just there to help. The atmosphere of SXSW is one of camaraderie -- one where a stranger can make fast friends with another stranger while standing in one of the lines that characterize the festival.
But the scene described by the Austin American Statesman in the hour after the accident was something much different: littered with shoes, clothes and debris, injured people being tended to, witnesses struggling to believe what they'd seen.
"I was thrown up in the sky," one musician told the paper, as friends tended to his leg. Another witness said she watched the scene unfold from a balcony on Red River. "About 10 bodies went flying," she said.