A suspected drunken driver fleeing from arrest crashed through barricades set up for the South by Southwest festival early Thursday, ramming into a crowd of pedestrians, killing two people and injuring 23, police in Austin, Texas, said.
Five of the injured were in critical condition, Police Chief Art Acevedo told reporters.
The motorist also struck a cab before crashing, jumping out of his car and trying to run. A pursuing officer shocked him with a stun gun and took him into custody, police said.
The crash happened around 12:30 a.m. as the driver tried to evade a pursuing police officer. The man and woman who died were on a moped that the motorist hit. The chief said the man also hit pedestrians in front of a club that was emptying.
The man, whose name was not released, faces two counts of capital murder and 23 counts of aggravated assault with a vehicle.
The accident stunned revelers at the annual music, film and tech conference that draws tens of thousands to Austin each year. Many were getting real-time reports from social media.
The street was full of concert-goers just minutes earlier, but officials had cleared the area because it is a fire lane.
"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 did not identify the victims. He asked witnesses and those who may have taken video to contact police rather than post it to the Internet. All the injured were taken to hospitals.
Police said the man pulled into a nearby gas station in a silver Toyota sedan after an officer working a drunken-driving patrol tried to stop him. He wove his way through a series of parked cars, then took off at high speed the wrong way down a one-way street. He took a right turn on Red River Street, crashing through a barricade and narrowly missing a police officer who was standing guard.
He hit some of the victims in front of The Mohawk, a club hosting during the five-day music conference. He continued down the street where he struck and killed the two victims on the moped and then hit the cab before finally crashing, police said.
Officers had closed off a two-block section of downtown Austin and continued to investigate into the morning. Acevedo said there were no plans to change safety protocols at the festival due to the accident.
"We do these events very well, but you cannot stop a person who rather than face drunk driving charges decides to speed at a high rate of speed, go around a uniformed officer forcing him to run out of the way, then at a high rate of speed show total disregard for the sanctity of human life," Acevedo said.
—By The Associated Press.