Dozens of pedestrians mowed down in Vegas Strip hit-and-run

Police and emergency crews respond to the scene of a car accident along Las Vegas Boulevard, Sunday, Dec. 20, 2015, in Las Vegas. Photo: CBS News

LAS VEGAS — A woman intentionally swerved her car onto a busy sidewalk two or three times Sunday evening and hit people outside Las Vegas casinos, killing at least one person and injuring at least 36, police said.

The vehicle was in the northbound lanes of Las Vegas Boulevard near Bellagio Way when it drove up onto the sidewalk about 6:30 p.m. in front of the Paris Hotel & Casino and struck pedestrians, including 37 who were taken to hospitals, Lt. Peter Boffelli said. One adult was killed, six were in critical condition and 26 injured, he said.

“This is a huge tragedy that has happened on our Strip,” Boffelli said.

The six people admitted to area hospitals in critical condition were stable after their initial treatment, officials said. One of the injured is an 1 year old, reports CBS Las Vegas affiliate KLAS-TV.

The crash, in front of the Paris and Planet Hollywood hotels, occurred on a busy stretch of the Las Vegas Strip across from the dancing water fountains of the Bellagio hotel-casino, where visitors crowd sidewalks as they was walk from one casino to another. The Miss Universe pageant was being held nearby at the Planet Hollywood Las Vegas Resort & Casino at the time of the crash.

Lt. Dan McGrath says police believe it was an intentional act by a woman in her 20s who “went up and off these streets, two or possibly three times.” The woman, who was not hurt, was being interviewed and having her blood drawn to determine whether she was under the influence of drugs or alcohol. She was being held in Clark County jail, with charges pending.

Las Vegas Police Capt. Brett Zimmerman said at a news conference late Sunday night that terrorism had been ruled out.

Police say the woman, who had recently arrived in Las Vegas, drove a 1996 four-door Oldsmobile with Oregon license plates.

Zimmerman said police are reviewing video from casino-hotel surveillance cameras. “We will comb through that footage to get a detailed idea of what occurred,” he said.

A 3-year-old child was in the vehicle with her but was not hurt, Zimmerman said.

After the crash, the vehicle continued to drive east on Flamingo Road before it was found at a hotel, McGrath said.

The pedestrians were not in the road and were not at fault, McGrath said.

One witness told KLAS some men tried to stop the car, but couldn’t.

Justin Cochrane, a property manager from Santa Barbara, California, said he was having dinner at a sidewalk restaurant outside the Paris Hotel and across the street from the famous Bellagio Fountain when the incident took place.

The car appeared to be going 30 to 40 mph when it first hit the pedestrians on Las Vegas Boulevard, Cochrane said. “It was just massacring people,” he said.

The vehicle then went further down the road and backed into another crowd of pedestrians, he said.

Cochrane said he couldn’t understand why the car went into the crowd a second time. “Why would it slow to go around and then accelerate again?” he said. “I thought it’s a crazy person.”

Cochrane said he saw children and adults injured and on the ground as the car drove away.

The scene on the Las Vegas Strip after a hit-and-run driver hit dozens of pedestrians on December 20, 2015. Photo: CBS News
The scene on the Las Vegas Strip after a hit-and-run driver hit dozens of pedestrians on December 20, 2015. Photo: CBS News

 

Joel Ortega, 31, of Redlands, California, said he and his wife, Carla, were in Las Vegas for the weekend and found themselves blocked from walking on the sidewalk toward the Paris Hotel & Casino. They could see police investigating about a block away from the scene of the crash.

“At first, I thought it was a movie shoot,” Joel Ortega said, “I thought maybe we’d see someone famous.”

But then they learned that it was a crash scene. Joel Ortega said it made them remember how their neighborhood was disrupted after the Dec. 2 mass shooting in San Bernardino, California, near their home.

Clark County Fire Chief Greg Cassell said the call for help came in at 6:38 p.m. and 70 emergency crew workers were sent to the scene.

Those in critical condition are being treated at University Medical Center, Sunrise Hospital and Medical Center and Spring Valley Hospital.

Sunrise Hospital and Medical Center spokeswoman Stacy Acquista said 11 adults were in good condition as of 9 p.m. Danita Cohen, spokeswoman for University Medical Center, said 11 crash victims were brought to its trauma center. As of 10 p.m., one person had been discharged but three remained in critical condition, she said.

Cohen said the victims’ injuries included head injuries, cuts and broken bones. Some of the victims are from Montreal, Canada, and were in need of French translators at University Medical Center, she said.

Spring Valley Hospital spokeswoman Gretchen Papez said three people had received care for minor injuries and were being discharged as of 10:50 p.m.

On Oct. 24, a woman was accused of driving into a crowd during Oklahoma State’s homecoming parade in Stillwater. Four people were killed, including a 2-year-old boy, and more than 40 were hurt. The driver, 25-year-old Adacia Chambers of Stillwater, was this month found competent to stand trial on four counts of second-degree murder and 46 counts of assault.

The Las Vegas Strip was closed in both directions from Harmon Avenue to Flamingo Road after the incident, KLAS says.

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