An elderly driver plowed into dozens of hikers marching in a parade on Saturday in a small Virginia mountain town and investigators are looking into whether he suffered a medical emergency before the accident.
About 50 to 60 people suffered injuries ranging from critical to superficial, but no fatalities were reported. Three of the worst injured were flown by helicopter to hospitals in the area.
Their conditions were not immediately available.
Another 12 to 15 victims were taken to hospitals by ambulance and the rest were treated at the scene, where paramedics and other first-responders were participating in the parade.
The incident happened on Saturday afternoon in the hamlet of Damascus, during the Hikers Parade at the Trail Days festival, an annual celebration of the Appalachian Trail.
Damascus Police Chief Bill Nunley did not release the driver’s name or age but said he was participating in the parade and he had traversed the Appalachian Trail in the past. Multiple witnesses described him as an elderly man.
Nunley said the man’s 1997 Cadillac was one of the last vehicles in the parade and the driver might have suffered an unspecified medical problem when his car accelerated to about 40kph and struck the crowd on a two-lane bridge along the town’s main road.
The driver was among those taken to hospitals.
Witnesses said the car had a handicapped parking sticker and went more than 30m before coming to a stop.
Amanda Puckett, who was watching the parade with her children, ran to the car, where she and others lifted the car off those pinned underneath.
“Everybody just threw our hands up on the car and we just lifted the car up,” she said.
Keith Neumann, a hiker from South Carolina, said he was part of the group that scrambled around the car. They pushed the car backward to free a woman trapped underneath.
“There’s no single heroes. We’re talking about a group effort of everybody jumping in,” he said.
Nunley cited quick action by police, firefighters, paramedics and hikers to tend to the victims, including a volunteer firefighter who dove into the car to turn off the ignition. The firefighter, whose name was not released, suffered minor injuries.