18/05/2017 18:14 SAST | Updated 19/05/2017 16:34 SAST

Car Runs Down More Than A Dozen Pedestrians In Times Square, Killing 1

“It was unreal, I’m still trying to process,” a witness said.

NEW YORK ― A man police say may have been high on PCP plowed a car through crowded Times Square on Thursday, careening into pedestrians and killing an 18-year-old tourist before crashing into security bollards.

Richard Rojas, 26, was taken into custody after the crash that injured 22 people in addition to the teenager who was killed. Rojas, a U.S. Navy veteran and Bronx native who had several prior DUI arrests, tested positive for the mood-altering drunk PCP, according to the New York Times. Police originally believed Rojas had been on the synthetic drug K2.

The crash happened around noon on Seventh Avenue near West 43rd Street ― an area packed with lunchtime crowds and tourists on a hot day. 

Reuters Staff / Reuters
A man who police said was the suspected driver of a car which crashed into a crowd on Times Square, is led out of the NYPD Midtown South precinct in New York, U.S., May 18, 2017. REUTERS/Rodrigo Campos

Mayor Bill de Blasio said there was no indication the mayhem was an act of terrorism.

“Right now, it’s an isolated incident, but they’re still [taking] all precautionary measures,” NYPD spokeswoman Arlene Muniz told HuffPost.

Killed was Alyssa Elsman, 18, who was visiting from Michigan. Her 13-year-old sister was injured.

The principal of Portage Central High School, where Elsman graduated in 2016, received the news from her family. 

“Alyssa was wonderful young lady,” Eric Alburtus told the Detroit Free Press. “When you first got to know her, you would perceive that she was shy or quiet. The more you got to know her, the more you would realize she was funny, and thoughtful, and compassionate to other people.”

Instagram / Alyssa Elsman
Alyssa Elsman, 18, was fatally struck by a car Thursday in Times Square.

Tiffany Wong, 23, was across the street when the crash occurred.

“It was unreal, I’m still trying to process,” Wong told HuffPost. “I saw the car go down the sidewalk across from me, then it was smoking and on fire. I saw one woman who was hit and on the ground. And that was after he hit a bunch of others.”

Wong said she saw a man inside the vehicle crawl out and try to run away. Other pedestrians stopped him from fleeing, she added.

Witnesses said there was panic immediately following the crash. Some people fled, while others rushed to get police help. Within 20 minutes, officers had secured the square.

Tyrone Lopez, 37, said the driver appeared to be driving at a high rate of speed as he hit pedestrians.

”I saw one lady he hit ― he dragged her up a half a block before she stopped at the corner, and he kept going up the street hitting everything on the way.”

Thursday was hot and sunny, luring throngs of people into the iconic tourist spot. After the crash, hundreds gathered behind police tape and fences, some trying to push their way through despite fears that something horrible had just occurred.

“It’s gonna be a while ― you’re not getting in today,” one officer told a tourist who tried to duck under a police line. “Don’t you see all the police tape? Get back.”

NYPD vehicles and fire trucks swarmed the area. Street vendors were ordered to either pack up or leave their stuff as officers pushed crowds further back from the scene.

Images on social media showed the car spewing smoke as first responders arrived. (Some photos below may be disturbing to some readers.) 

See more photos of the incident below.

  • falsettoland/Instagram
    The car that ran into pedestrians in Times Square on Thursday, May 18, 2017.
  • Mike Segar / Reuters
    A man helps an injured woman on the sidewalk. 
  • Mike Segar / Reuters
    An injured woman lies on the sidewalk in Times Square after a speeding vehicle struck pedestrians on the sidewalk.
  • Drew Angerer via Getty Images
    A wrecked car sits in the intersection of 45th and Broadway in Times Square, May 18, 2017, in New York City.
  • Boston Globe via Getty Images
    Emergency workers investigate the car that crashed into pedestrians.
  • Reuters Staff / Reuters
    First responders assist injured pedestrians after a vehicle struck pedestrians on a sidewalk in Times Square.
  • Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
    A bumper of a wrecked vehicle is seen after it plowed into pedestrians on a busy sidewalk on the corner of West 45th Street and Broadway at Times Square.
  • Drew Angerer via Getty Images
    A young woman was killed and 22 were hurt when the car plowed into a crowd of people.
  • Reuters Staff / Reuters
    First responders at the scene as people help injured pedestrians.
  • Mike Segar / Reuters
    An injured man is seen on the sidewalk in Times Square. 
  • Mike Segar / Reuters
    A woman attends to an injured man on the sidewalk in Times Square. 
  • JEWEL SAMAD via Getty Images
    People attend to injured pedestrians after a car plunged into them in Times Square.
  • JEWEL SAMAD via Getty Images
    Police secure an area near a car after it plunged into pedestrians in Times Square.

This article has been updated throughout.