Tourist killed, 22 hurt after driver plows car into crowd in busy Times Square

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Eyewitness News team coverage on the Times Square deadly crash. (Left photo: AP/Seth Wenig | Right: WABC)

A tourist visiting New York City was killed and nearly two dozen people were injured after the driver of a car drove up the sidewalk in the middle of a busy Times Square Thursday. Officials say 18-year-old Alyssa Elsman was visiting New York City from Michigan and was with her younger sister at the time of the tragic crash.

RELATED: Sources say Times Square driver was apparently high on K2

It happened just before noon near 44th Street and Seventh Avenue -- the heart of Times Square near Broadway. Police said the driver of a Honda drove at a high rate of speed the wrong way up the sidewalk along Seventh Avenue, plowing into pedestrians before crashing and coming to a stop.

An 18-year-old tourist from Michigan died at the scene, officials said. Her 13-year-old sister was with her at the time, and was injured in the incident.

PHOTOS: Car plows into crowd in Times Square


Twenty-one others were injured. Four of them are in critical condition, three are in serious condition -- and all are expected to survive.

The NYPD released a statement, saying, "It is believed to be an isolated incident, it remains under investigation." Officials added that there is no indication that this was an act of terror.

The driver, identified as 26-year-old Richard Rojas from the Bronx, allegedly attempted to flee after the crash but was quickly taken into police custody. Sources said he punched a police officer as they took him into custody. He's a U.S. citizen and a Naval veteran.

Law enforcement sources said they believe he had smoked synthetic marijuana (K2) prior to the crash -- causing him to be extremely impaired.

VIDEO: Cops walk Times Square suspect from the police precinct:
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Watch raw video showing the driver of a car that hit nearly two dozen people in Times Square.


City officials said Rojas has two prior driving-while-intoxicated arrests and other motor vehicle violations on his record. His last arrest was on menacing charges for allegedly putting a knife to a man's throat.

He is now being tested for drugs. Charges are pending.

VIDEO FROM THE SCENE MOMENTS AFTER THE CRASH:
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Video shows aftermath of Times Square car crash.


Police said Rojas drove at a high rate of speed from West 42nd Street to West 45th Street. His vehicle was stopped by a metal stanchion at West 45th Street. The car appeared to catch fire, as smoke was seen coming up from it.

Witnesses said the driver appeared to intentionally drive into a group of people, but police are still investigating the motive.

Watch an interview with one of the witnesses:
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Rob Nelson talks to an Eyewitness at the scene.


Here is video showing the scene:


NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio and Gov. Andrew Cuomo went to the scene and met with officials.

Click here for full coverage on the deadly Times Square crash.
Related Topics:
traffictraffic accidentu.s. & worldtraffic fatalitiescar crashinvestigationtimes square pedestrians struckcrashNew York
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