ON AIR NOW

LISTEN NOW

Weather

clear-night
48°
Clear
H 56° L 34°
  • clear-night
    48°
    Current Conditions
    Clear. H 56° L 34°
  • clear-night
    35°
    Morning
    Clear. H 56° L 34°
  • clear-day
    57°
    Afternoon
    Sunny. H 61° L 38°
LISTEN
PAUSE
ERROR

Krmg news on demand

00:00 | 00:00

LISTEN
PAUSE
ERROR

Krmg traffic on demand

00:00 | 00:00

LISTEN
PAUSE
ERROR

Krmg weather on demand

00:00 | 00:00

National
SXSW tragedy: 2 killed, 23 hurt as car speeds through crowd
Close

SXSW tragedy: 2 killed, 23 hurt as car speeds through crowd

SXSW tragedy: 2 killed, 23 hurt as car speeds through crowd
Photo Credit: Jay Janner

SXSW tragedy: 2 killed, 23 hurt as car speeds through crowd

Fleeing a routine early morning traffic stop in downtown Austin, a suspected drunken driver crashed through a police barricade and sped down a street crowded with South by Southwest festival-goers, killing two and leaving a horrific trail of injured pedestrians over two blocks before hitting a taxi and a parked van.

Twenty-three people were taken to area hospitals. Two remain in critical condition with severe head injuries. Six others also remained hospitalized Thursday afternoon, including three in serious condition with injuries that include a spinal fracture, head injuries and other problems.

“The two critical patients I have a great deal of concern and worry about,” said Dr. Christopher Ziebell, emergency room director at University Medical Center Brackenridge. “Not everyone with these injuries survives.”

>> Read more trending stories  

The driver — identified as Rashad Charjuan Owens, 21, of Killeen — was struck with a police taser and arrested as he tried to flee on foot. He was treated for minor injuries at University Medical Center Brackenridge and released into police custody, where he will face two charges of capital murder and 23 counts of aggravated assault with a vehicle.

“That vehicle was used as a weapon, and he will be charged with those crimes,” Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo said.

One of the dead, a Dutch musician and music agency employee identified as Steven Craenmehr, was riding a bicycle near the intersection of East 11th and Red River streets when struck. The other, an Austin woman on a moped, also was killed. Both were pronounced dead at the scene, officials said.

Another rider on the moped, a man, was injured.

The incident began around 12:30 a.m. Thursday when an Austin police officer tried to pull over a suspected drunken driver on the Interstate 35 frontage road. The driver pulled into a Shell gas station at East Ninth Street, using his turn signal and “feinting as if to yield” before speeding the wrong way down down Ninth Street, Acevedo said.

The suspect turned right onto Red River, crashing through a barricade and forcing a uniformed police officer to leap out of the way to avoid being struck, Acevedo said.

Red River, which was closed to vehicles, is home to many popular clubs that were hosting South by Southwest music showcases, and horrified music fans watched as the speeding four-door sedan slammed repeatedly into pedestrians, a bicyclist, moped and a taxi before jumping a sidewalk and striking a van in a parking lot, Acevedo said.

While the suspect was being chased down and arrested, witnesses sprang into action to help the wounded, shaking off the shock to help stanch the bleeding or merely hold hands in comfort, live music playing in the background.

Emergency crews, deployed throughout downtown for South by Southwest, arrived within minutes via motorcycle, bicycle and small off-road vehicles.

Frequent training in handling mass casualties paid off, said James Shamard, chief of staff for the Austin/Travis County Emergency Medical Services, as the first crews to arrive began to triage patients. Cards marked with red were placed with five of the most critically injured, who were taken to nearby University Medical Center Brackenridge within 15 minutes, Shamard said.

Five victims with lesser injuries were given cards marked in yellow and taken to St. David’s Hospital and South Austin Medical Center within 21 minutes, Shamard said. Thirteen tagged with green cards, indicating non-life-threatening injuries, were taken to other hospitals within 50 minutes, he said.

Black-marked tags were placed on the man and woman who were pronounced dead at the scene, Shamard said.

Most of the pedestrians hit were between Ninth and 10th streets, said Acevedo, who urged anybody who witnessed the crashes to call Austin police at 512-974-5186.

Police will reassess procedures used to block off streets during special events, as is common after a tragedy, Acevedo said, “but when somebody acts intentionally, it’s very difficult to stop.”

A person “willing to drive down a street, mowing people down, will crash through or go around a barricade,” he said. “This is an individual that showed no regard for the human beings he plowed through … to get away.”

Sturdier barricades can pose other problems for emergency crews and vehicles that need access to widespread events such as South by Southwest, he said.

The suspect, Owens, was booked into Travis County Jail at 5:44 a.m. No bail was set.

Police obtained a search warrant for blood samples to assess Owens’ blood-alcohol level and are awaiting results, Acevedo said.

Acevedo said he urged South by Southwest managers to continue with planned events. “We cannot allow one individual, through his selfish acts … to ruin a wonderful event, a worldwide event,” he said.

Roland Swenson, managing director of SXSW, said staff are contacting all venues to determine if events will change. Several cancellations have been announced.

“As much as we’d like to go home and spend time absorbing the shock of this horrific event, we feel our best use is to continue to operate today,” Swenson said. “We will announce changes to the schedule as they occur today.”

In the hectic moments after the series of crashes early Thursday, witnesses described a chaotic scene.

Scott Jakota, a musician from Indiana in town to play SXSW, said he was one of the first people hit. He said the driver “gunned” the car, “and I was thrown up in the sky.” He appeared to have a leg injury and was being helped by his friends.

Ally Hulton, a 28-year-old from Los Angeles, was smoking a cigarette on the balcony of her friend’s apartment on Red River when she saw a car drive down the street “at full speed” before hitting someone.

It then appeared to accelerate into a crowd of people, she said.

“About 10 bodies went flying,” Hulton said.

An American-Statesman photographer on the balcony of the Mohawk nightclub at the time of the incident said he saw some bystanders attempting to provide first aid to victims while others sat stunned on curbs with their hands over their mouths. He said the band playing at the time, X, finished its set, unaware of what had happened.

Transmission Events, which owns the Mohawk, said on Twitter: “Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of the victims and injured from tonight’s tragedy. Please check and make sure everyone you know is home safe tonight.”

With additional reporting by Philip Jankowski, Peter Blackstock, Nancy Flores, Ben Wermund and Jay Janner.

Read More
VIEW COMMENTS

There are no comments yet. Be the first to post your thoughts. or Register.

  • As the House voted along party lines on Thursday to approve a sweeping package of GOP tax reforms, one peculiar part of the floor debate came when a number of Republicans – who voted for the bill – took to the floor to request changes in the their party’s plan, as some highlighted unintended consequences, while others objected to the basics of the measure. Known in parliamentary parlance as a “colloquy,” the scripted exchanges between lawmakers are often done to clarify the legislative intent of a bill, or in this case, to urge action in a specific way in House-Senate negotiations. And for some Republicans in this week’s tax reform debate, it was clear they wanted some provisions altered. Some requests were specific, like Rep. David McKinley (R-WV), who made the case for historic preservation tax credits, which were eradicated by the House GOP tax reform bill. “Without the credit, projects that transform communities in all 50 states, from West Virginia to Texas, to Wisconsin, simply will not happen,” McKinley said on the House floor, as he asked for Brady’s word that he would help reverse the decision. That didn’t happen. “I commit to working with him and continuing to work with him on this issue because I know the importance of it,” Brady responded, making sure not to guarantee anything in some of these floor exchanges. For Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-FL), a staunch advocate of the GOP bill, he asked the Chairman of the House Ways and Means to do more in terms of tax help for the people of Puerto Rico, whose island was devastated by Hurricane Maria. “I look forward to working with you on ideas to best serve the people of this island,” said Rep. Kevin Brady (R-TX), who thanked fellow GOP lawmakers for their concerns, but made no promises. For Rep. Andy Barr (R-KY), the issue was with a new excise tax from Republicans that would be levied on the endowments of private colleges and universities. Barr said that would harm Berea College in his district, a ‘work college’ that uses its endowment money to pay the tuition of all students. It was noted in press stories back home. Barr Fights for Berea College in Tax Reform Bill – https://t.co/YoBgs5CWvp – — BereaOnline.com (@bereaonline) November 16, 2017 “I was pleased to learn that the Senate version of the bill exempts schools with fewer than 500 tuition-paying students from the excise tax,” Barr said, urging Brady to accept that position in any House-Senate negotiation. Brady said he would try. “Mr. Speaker, we will work together for a mutually accepted solution to make sure we exempt work colleges to use their endowments to provide tuition-free education,” the panel chairman responded. For Rep. Don Young (R-AK), the problem he brought to the House floor was under the heading of unintended consequences, as the GOP tax bill would subject native settlement trusts in Alaska to a higher rate of taxation. “This would make it more difficult for Alaska Native Settlement Trusts to provide long-term benefits to Alaska Natives,” Young said on the House floor, asking Brady to include provisions of a bill to remedy that and more. Unlike some of the other requests, Brady acknowledged that the GOP tax bill would “unintentionally” change the tax rate for the Alaskan settlements, agreeing to focus on this in conference as we finalize individual rate structures between the House and the Senate.” Others weren’t so lucky to get a guarantee of action, as they pressed for changes in maybe the most controversial part of the GOP plan, which limits a deduction for state and local taxes. “I am concerned about its impact on some of my constituents in Maryland who pay high state and local income taxes,” said Rep. Andy Harris (R-MD), the only Republican member of the House from that state, which would be one of the biggest losers on the SALT issue. That subject also drew two California Republicans to make the same appeal to Brady later in the debate; Rep. Mimi Walters (R-CA) and Rep. Steve Knight (R-CA) echoed the concerns of Harris – all of them got a murky assurance of help. “I am happy to commit to working with both of them to ensure we reach a positive outcome for their constituents and families as we reconcile our differences with the Senate,” Brady said, making no promises. Other Republicans brought up education, and a provision in the GOP tax reform bill that would hinder colleges and universities from providing tax free tuition waivers and reimbursements, a matter that has drawn more and more attention in recent days. Rep. Mike Turner (R-OH) – whose district includes Dayton University – and Rep. Rodney Davis (R-IL) – whose district includes the University of Illinois – both appealed to Brady to make a change. “I believe that an unintended consequence of this bill would hinder middle class Americans pursuing a higher education degree in an attempt to better their lives,” Turner said. “I am worried it is going to have an impact on the custodians and the assistants in the Registrar’s Office who are just working at these institutions to be able to send their son or daughter to college,” said Davis. There was no guarantee that the provision would be changed. “I have a keen interest in this issue,” Brady told Turner and Davis. “I will work with you toward a positive solution on tuition assistance in conference with the Senate.” Democrats noted the exchanges on both days of the House tax reform debate, arguing that it showed off the haphazard nature of how the bill was put together. “I also was intrigued by the colloquy where Members came to ask the leadership if they will work with them to take out egregious elements of this tax proposal,” said Rep. Dan Kildee (D-MI). “We get this sort of, “Yes, I will work with the gentleman,” answer,” Kildee added, raising his voice on the floor. “Why did you put it in in the first place?” Kildee yelled. “Why are you cutting historic tax credits in the first place? Why did you put it in in the first place? You just wrote the bill. You just wrote it,” he said. GOP lawmakers said this past week that anyone can find a reason to vote against a big bill like this tax reform plan – we’ll see in coming weeks whether these publicly voiced concerns become an issue for the final version of tax reform in the Congress.
  • We have updated information regarding a Tulsa homicide Friday night near East 36th Street and South 137th East Avenue. Police tell us Phazon Scott surrendered to investigators around 9:45 p.m. He will be booked into the Tulsa County Jail for first-degree murder. The unidentified 40-year-old victim was found fatally shot inside a house around 6:37 p.m. “The victim wanted to talk to the grandmother about a situation at the house involving his children,” police said.   “Scott arrived and entered the house and he and the victim had an argument. During the course of the argument Scott pulled a handgun from his waistband and shot the victim.” Scott then left the scene with the gun.  He later returned to the home and surrendered.   
  • KRMG has learned Gov. Mary Fallin vetoed 'most' of the revised budget bill passed by lawmakers this week. In a statement released by her office, Fallin says, “House Bill 1019X does not provide a long-term solution to the re-occurring budget deficits, and within three months we will come back facing an estimated $600 million shortfall.' Fallin vetoed 165 of 170 sections in the bill.  She did leave intact provisions for the Department of Mental Health, the Department of Human Services, Oklahoma Health Care Authority, the Department of Health, and the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services. Statement from the Tulsa Regional Chamber: “We at the Tulsa Regional Chamber strongly applaud Governor Fallin’s decision to veto much of the revised budget sent to her by the legislature Friday. Her courage in demanding real solutions to our budget crisis – not merely kicking the can down the road – is admirable and necessary. Oklahomans expect elected officials to be responsible stewards of public funds and navigate a sound budget for the state. We support Governor Fallin’s leadership tonight in demanding a higher standard for all Oklahomans.”
  • If you have a kite, today will be perfect to take it out to the park. National Weather Service Meteorologist Bart Haake says it's going to be windy in the Tulsa area. “It looks like we’ll see partly cloudy skies,” Haake said.  “We’ll see breezy northerly winds, probably in the 20 to 30 mile an hour range.” The sun is also expected to make an appearance.  NWS reports the high will only reach around 57 degrees.   There is a wind advisory in effect from 6 a.m. until 5 p.m.   It’s going to get chilly Saturday night.  Temperatures are expected to drop to around 35 degrees.  
  • An Ohio pastor, arrested in Dayton, was found guilty earlier this year for loitering to engage in solicitation, according to court records. >> Read more trending news Daniel P. Williams, 40, of Huber Heights, was found guilty in late August after pleading guilty to a misdemeanor count of loitering, according to Dayton Municipal Court. Williams’ employer is listed as Arrowbrook Baptist Church in Xenia in both court record and the police report. The church’s website also lists Williams as its pastor. Attempts to reach Williams by phone  were unsuccessful. Williams was originally charged with a second count of loitering and a third count of soliciting. Both were withdrawn upon his guilty plea, according to Dayton Municipal Court.  The violation happened at around noon Aug. 17, according to Dayton police. Williams was sentenced to 60 days in jail, with all 60 days suspended. He will be on probation for one year, according to court records.