‘Bodies flew in the air’ as car drove at full speed down street

Eyewitnesses in Austin describe incident by fleeing driver as horrific, reports Jim Carroll from SXSW

At least two people were killed and dozens more were injured early Thursday morning (March 13) when a car crashed through a crowd in Austin, Texas during the South By Southwest festival. Video: Socrates Villarreal


During the South By Southwest (SXSW) music festival in Austin, Texas, the streets of the city are packed with people from early in the day to very late at night.

There are over 2,000 bands playing some 100 different clubs and venues during the five-day citywide festival. As a result, the event attracts thousands of music fans, including many international visitors, who go from venue to venue to catch bands in action.

Most venues are already full when they get there, so people queue outside in the hope of getting in at some stage. The mood outside the venues is always good-natured, with people content to wait and talk to others in the same situation.

Red River Street, where a driver crashed through police barricades and killed two people and injured 21 bystanders last night, is usually particularly busy during the festival because of the number of popular, high-profile live music clubs in the vicinity.

Venues such as the Mohawk, Cheer Up Charlies, Stubb’s, the Red Eyed Fly and many more are located within a few city blocks, so there is a constant flow of people walking up and down Red River Street going from gig to gig. Such is the movement of people that the street is always closed off to traffic, though the cross-streets are accessible by car.

Last night’s incident occurred when police pursued a driver who had evaded a drink-driving check at a garage. The driver then drove the wrong way down Ninth Street before crashing through a police barricade on the corner of Red River. He then crashed into people waiting outside the Mohawk to get in to see rapper Tyler the Creator - the last act of the night at the venue.

Eyewitnesses described the incident as horrific. Mary Douglas from Austin said “bodies just flew in the air” as the car drove “at full speed” down Red River.

Another bystander, Al Sutton, said many bystanders rushed to help those who had been struck before ambulance crews arrived. “Some people tried to give people first aid, but people were so shocked by what happened.”

It is the first major incident of this sort to ever occur at SXSW, which has been running annually in Austin since 1987.

The festival, which also incorporates equally popular film and interactive programmes, was estimated to be worth about $218 million to the city in 2013.