Driver in Custody After Plowing Into Times Square Crowd; 1 Dead, 22 Injured |

Driver in Custody After Plowing Into Times Square Crowd; 1 Dead, 22 Injured

The maroon Honda Accord driven by Richard Rojas propped up on the metal stanchions it collided with. Photo courtesy Ehab and Abed Hamid.

BY JACKSON CHEN | One person was killed and at least 22 injured in Times Square after a driver plowed through the crowds on the pedestrian plaza at around noon on Thurs., May 18, officials said.

An 18-year-old woman died at the scene, and the 22 injured people, who suffered broken bones and other traumatic injuries, were taken to area hospitals, officials said.

The driver of the 2009 maroon Honda Accord that tore into the crowd was identified by police as Richard Rojas, a 26-year-old Navy veteran with two prior arrests for driving while intoxicated.

Rojas was driving southbound on Seventh Ave. when he made a U-turn at W. 42nd St. and then sped onto the sidewalk of Broadway, officials said.

Rojas eventually crashed into the metal stanchions at the corner of W. 45th St. and Broadway, leaving his vehicle lopsided, propped up by the metal supports, and emitting white smoke. The driver attempted to flee, but was caught and held down by Good Samaritans and a traffic enforcement officer until police arrived and arrested Rojas, officials said.

While many feared the worst-case scenario of a terrorism attack, Mayor Bill de Blasio confirmed it wasn’t an act of terrorism at a press conference shortly after the incident.

“Based on the information we have at this moment, there is no indication that this was an act of terrorism,” de Blasio said at a press conference at W. 42nd St. and Broadway.

Police apprehending Richard Rojas. Photo courtesy Ehab and Abed Hamid.

Ehab, a food vendor at the corner of W. 44th St. and Broadway who withheld his last name, said he saw the Honda speeding on Broadway and ramming into several people. Panicked passersby began running away from the center of Times Square, Ehab said, and he was eventually forced to move his food cart down the block by police.

Police squads began closing off streets following the incident, eventually blocking off access between W. 42nd and 52nd Sts. and Sixth and Eighth Aves. The street closures left many tourists stranded, unable to reach their hotels near the crash site.

Deb Hagen and Sara Gierdal, two Minnesota tourists, were stuck at a midblock blockade on W. 47th St. between Sixth and Seventh Aves., trying to get to their room in the DoubleTree hotel down the block.

Hagen said police were very firm about nobody getting through, agreeing only to escort a man who required medication from his hotel room to his destination. The Minnesota tourists said police officers continued flowing in past the barricades while many tourists wheeling their luggage were turned away.

Frank Heller, a New Jersey resident, was on his way home but couldn’t bypass the street closures to get to the Port Authority Bus Terminal. He said the officers couldn’t give an exact answer when asked how he could proceed, and he was left to find open cross streets on his own. When he had arrived in the city earlier, Heller said, the New Jersey resident said he saw the commotion and chose to avoid the more hectic than usual crowds at Times Square.

“Well, it’s part of living in the New York metropolitan area,” Heller said of the incident. “This is the society we live in, it’s just a microcosm of that.”

An injured pedestrian gets attention from passersby. Photo courtesy Ehab and Abed Hamid.