Tragedy strikes SXSW as suspected drunk driver crashes into downtown Austin crowd
UPDATE: Austin Police Department and SXSW organizers announced during a press conference that events will continue as scheduled. "We urged them to continue," said Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo, adding that allowing one individual to ruin a wonderful, worldwide event would be "a victory of evil not a victory of humanity."
Tragedy struck SXSW Festival early Thursday morning when a vehicle drove through barricades on Red River Street and into a large crowd near Cheer Up Charlie's and the Mohawk in downtown Austin. Early reports from the Austin Police Department confirm that two victims were killed and another 23 were injured (five of whom are listed in critical condition).
In a media briefing, Police Chief Art Acevedo said that at 12:30 am Thursday, an officer initiated a traffic stop on the grounds of driving while intoxicated. When the stop was initiated, the driver evaded the officer and "accelerated at a high rate of speed going the wrong way on a one-way street [Ninth Street]."
The suspect then turned on Red River, driving through barricades, and "at a high rate of speed struck multiple pedestrians."
An eyewitness told CultureMap via text message there were "people holding each other and making [tourniquets] out of shirts" on the scene.
The driver continued down Red River, where at 11th Street, the vehicle struck a moped and a taxi before crashing into a van. At this point, Acevedo said, the suspect attempted to flee on foot, and he was tased by the officer and taken into custody. The two riders on the moped, an adult male and an adult female, were pronounced dead on the scene.
"This suspect will be charged by the Austin Police Department with two counts of capital murder," Acevedo said. Police are expected to release the suspect's identity on Thursday afternoon. Those who were on the scene are asked to call 512-974-5186 with information.
SXSW responded to the incident Thursday morning on its website:
Our thoughts and prayers go out to those affected by the tragic accident that took place last night here in Austin. We appreciate and commend the first responders, as well as the city agencies who so quickly sprung into action. We will be making schedule and venue changes for programming in the surrounding area of last night’s events. All other programming will continue as previously scheduled. Please watch this website and twitter.com/sxsw for updates throughout the day.
Transmission Events issued the following response on Facebook: "Our thoughts & prayers are w/ the families of the victims and injured from tonight's tragedy. Please check & make sure everyone you know is home safe tonight. We love you all."
You can watch the full media briefing below: