One person has died and 11 have been injured after a driver used his vehicle to accelerate and mow down pedestrians in the popular seaside resort of Venice Beach near Los Angeles in the American state of California.
Witnesses reported seeing a driver in a black saloon-type car rapidly accelerate down the Venice Beach Boardwalk, a pedestrian-priority promenade facing the beach, before he indiscriminately ploughed into tourists leisurely strolling along the pavement.
The Californian summer brought out thousands of tourists and sun-seekers at around 6:40pm local time, the busiest time for the area, and witnesses described the boardwalk as being packed with people when the motorist rampaged through the crowd. He then fled the scene, leaving the promenade “in chaos”, according to a report by Singapore’s Strait Times.
The victim, who has not yet been identified, passed away from their injuries a few hours later in hospital after being struck in the crash, which happened yesterday (Saturday) evening, said Los Angeles police spokesperson Lt. Andy Neiman.
A security CCTV video taken at the scene shows the man parking his car at the boardwalk at sunset, leaving it for a while to watch the sun go down. He then re-entered the vehicle before driving it directly into the crowd at the beachwalk. Families, vendors, and street performers were seen fleeing for their lives as the man aimed at them, cutting an S-shape through the crowds of panicking holidaymakers. According to a news bulletin by local news television station KTLA, the young man first targeted a group of vendors near a cafe. People were said to have bounced off the bonnet of the man’s car “like bowling pins”, said KTLA reporter Steve Kuzj. Victims were left lying on the pavement, one was seen with bloody injuries to her arms. The unknown driver was said to have deliberately aimed his vehicle at innocent walkers at high speed before disappearing down a side street.
He left behind a scene of utter devastation and victims strewn along the roadside as frightened, but unharmed locals attempted to administer first aid amidst the confusion. “There was people kind of stumbling around, blood dripping down their legs looking confused not knowing what had happened, people screaming,” said 35-year-old Louisa Hodge, who was out enjoying the day on the Venice Beach boardwalk with a friend visiting from San Diego. Street furniture were also scattered around the incident zone.
Los Angeles police and local fire services attended the scene of the atrocity and the affected stretch of beach was closed until today.
Police have now apprehended the driver and have impounded the car after the killer fled on foot, according to another LAPD officer, Daniel Chun. No details are yet available on the driver’s identification or motive
The Venice Beach sidewalk draws in millions of tourists every year to California’s famed “Golden Coast”. It is renowned for its beachside cafes and restaurants. It is said to be the state’s most eccentric tourist hotspot, home to several tattoo parlours, skateboard parks and the legendary Muscle Beach, an outdoor weight-training gym. The beachfront runs for 2.5 miles along the town of Venice, in the Westside area of Los Angeles and it is normally a traffic-free zone.
VIDEO: The KTLA news report of the Venice Beach attack.
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