A two-year-old died Saturday evening from injuries the toddler suffered when a driver suspected to be under the influence plowed into a crowd at a homecoming parade at Oklahoma State University, according to hospital officials. Three other people were killed in the horrific crash and more than 40 were injured, authorities said.
The 25-year-old driver of the car, Adacia Chambers, was charged with driving under the influence and taken into custody, Stillwater police Capt. Kyle Gibbs said at an afternoon news conference.
David Bitton / The News Press via AP
Chambers allegedly drove the 2014 Hyundai Elantra into an unmanned police motorcycle before striking the crowd at around 10:30 a.m. (11:30 a.m. ET), according to a statement from the Stillwater Police Department.
Gibbs said it was too early to know whether Chambers drove into the crowd intentionally or not, but the investigation is being treated as a homicide and the Stillwater Police Department was reconstructing the scene. Police don’t believe Chambers, who is from Stillwater, is a student.
At least seven were critically hurt and nine seriously in the crash, according to police. Seventeen others were described as “walking wounded.” A Stillwater Hospital spokesperson said that about 40 patients, from ages 2 to 86, were initially brought there with wounds ranging from cuts and scrapes to life threatening injuries.
Four of those patients were flown St. John Hospital in Tulsa and OU Medical Center. An OU Medical Center spokesman said four children and three adults were being treated there as of Saturday evening. The 2-year-old patient being treated at OU Medical center died “as a result of the injuries sustained during this morning’s tragedy,” the hospital said in a statement.
Dozens who were wounded were treated by fire and emergency personnel along the street before they were taken to hospitals.
“Many of those entities were in the parade and on scene, so they were able to respond very quickly,” Gibbs said.
Some people who had come out for a carefree, celebratory day described the shock of sudden chaos to KJRH.
Tracy Epperson, from Tulsa, said she first heard “people screaming.”
“I turn around, and you just see bodies flying in the air,” she said. “That’s what’s going to be in my mind for forever.”
“It felt like dozens of people, may not have been dozens of people on the ground but it felt like dozens of people,” said Paul Sims, who was at the parade with his daughter. “The first person we came across was a young woman probably in her late teens, early 20s who was on the ground who was bleeding profusely from the head.”
Gibbs, who said he had been with the Stillwater Police Department for nearly three decades, said he couldn’t “recall an incident of this magnitude.”
More than 80,000 people attend homecoming activities at Oklahoma State University, according to the OSU Alumni Association, but it’s unclear how many people were at the parade.
“Oklahoma State University is devastated by today’s tragedy and extends its thoughts and prayers to the families of those who perished or were injured,” OSU president Burns Hargis said in a statement. “The Oklahoma State University Homecoming parade is the most wholesome of events and to have it marred in such a way is incomprehensible.”
The OSU Alumni Association, which organizes the “Homecoming Sea of Orange Parade,” also offered condolences to victims in a statement, as did Stillwater’s mayor, Gina Noble.
Officials considered postponing the 2:30 p.m. homecoming game against the University of Kansas, but decided not to. “We’re going to play and we’re going to remember the victims at the game,” Hargis said. The flag at OSU’s Boone Pickens Stadium was lowered to half-staff, and a moment of silence was held. Most of OSU’s players knelt in prayer after running onto the field before kickoff, The Associated Press reported.
Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin, an OSU alumna, traveled to Stillwater Saturday afternoon. She said she had planned to visit Stillwater for the game.
“It’s a very sad day for Oklahoma, it’s a very sad day for our OSU family to experience such a horrible tragedy, especially on homecoming day when people are here to celebrate the OSU Cowboys and OSU traditions,” Fallin told reporters at the stadium.