U.S. News

1 person dead, 22 injured after vehicle strikes pedestrians in New York's Times Square

Key Points
  • Preliminary reports had indicated the incident was not terror related.
  • The Fire Department of New York confirmed one woman died in the crash, and there were 22 injuries on the scene.
  • New York Governor Andrew Cuomo held a briefing with the media shortly after, thanking first responders.
FDNY: 13 patients reported at scene of incident

A vehicle struck pedestrians on a sidewalk in New York City's Times Square, what is a heavily trafficked area, on Thursday afternoon, killing one individual.

The driver, 26-year-old Richard Rojas from the city's Bronx borough, was charged late Thursday with second degree murder, 20 counts of attempted murder, and five counts of aggravated vehicular homicide, police said.

Preliminary reports had indicated the incident was not terror related. Police did not immediately release the cause of the crash, but law enforcement sources tell NBC News that Rojas claims he heard voices, and investigators are looking into the possibility it was a deliberate act.

The Fire Department of New York has confirmed that in addition to the one woman died in the crash, there were 22 injuries on the scene.

Police also confirmed the person who was killed was 18-year-old Alyssa Elsman of Portage, Michigan. Elsman's 13-year-old sister was also injured in the incident, police said.

One witness posted a photo of the scene to Twitter immediately, where numerous bodies were seen fallen on the pavement.

gb__ : What's happening in Times Square?? This car was in the sidewalk and people are on the streets

Local news outlets say Rojas has a history of DWI arrests and license suspensions.

His speeding car reportedly jumped a curb on Thursday, and photos show the smoking vehicle on the sidewalk. This happened around lunch time, where tourists and employees typically flood the streets.

Witnesses told Thomson Reuters, which is headquartered nearby, that the motorist drove a red Honda sedan against traffic. The car crashed into a pole and came to rest at 45th Street and Broadway before police took the driver away.

Multiple people from their social media accounts were reporting seeing injured individuals carried away on stretchers.

Live traffic cameras showed an escalated emergency response in the area; at least five fire trucks blocked off the intersection immediately near the scene, and a line of police cars blocked off traffic near Times Square's TKTS booth.

Press Secretary Sean Spicer tweeted that President Donald Trump had been made aware of the situation, as investigations about the suspect were ongoing.

@PressSec: .@POTUS has been made aware of the situation in Times Square and will continue to receive updates

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and New York City Mayor Bill DeBlasio arrived on the scene shortly after and held a briefing with the media in Times Square.

@NYCMayorsOffice: Mayor with @NYPDONeill and @FDNY in Times Square getting briefed on earlier incident.

After walking through Times Square, Governor Cuomo issued a statement, saying: "Today's events at Times Square were nothing short of horrific. I was briefed at the scene by Commissioner O'Neill and saw firsthand the professionalism and diligence of New York's first responders. As facts continue to emerge, my heart goes out to the victims of this terrible tragedy, as well as their families."

—NBC News, Reuters and NBC New York contributed to this report.