Hit-and-run driver kills 2 at SXSW
AUSTIN — A suspected drunken driver crashed through barriers at an Austin film and technology festival, killing two people and injuring 23 more, police said Thursday.
The tragedy outside the Mohawk, a popular bar and live music venue, cast a pall over downtown Austin as the Texas city plays host to the annual South By Southwest festival. The fest draws tens of thousands of people annually for its program of films, music and interactive technology.
Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo said officers initially tried to pull over the driver at a gas station on the Interstate 35 service road around 12:30 a.m. CT. The driver fled the wrong way down a one-way street and turned onto a street that had been closed after a concert. Acevedo said the Toyota sedan hit pedestrians at a “high rate of speed.”
Acevedo said the driver then hit a man and a woman on a moped, then a taxi and a van, before stopping the vehicle and fleeing on foot. The driver was pursued, tasered and taken into custody.
The two people on the moped were killed. Five of the injured were in critical condition, Acevedo said.
“We had a large crowd,” Acevedo said at a 2:30 a.m. news conference. “I just thank God that a lot of the folks had already been pushed on the sidewalk or this could have been a lot worse.”
Acevedo said the driver will be charged with two counts of capital murder. University Medical Center Brackenridge’s emergency room Medical Director Chris Ziebell said the driver was treated for minor injures and released into police custody. Ziebell said a blood-alcohol test was taken but did not release the results.
Eight patients were taken to UMC Brackenridge. Ziebell said three people are in serious condition and in the ICU. Two people have head injuries, and the director said he has a “great deal of concern and worry” for those two patients.
“These are some of the worst injuries that we see,” he said.
Austin Mayor Lee Leffingwell released a statement sending thoughts and prayers to victims and their families. “Austin Police Department is investigating this matter as allegedly involving drunk driving,” the statement said. “If this is true, this fact angers me. Drunk driving is never acceptable, and can lead to deadly consequences.”
Contributing: Kim Hjelmgaard and John Bacon, USA TODAY