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Tragedy strikes SXSW as driver crashes through crowd

Posted by: Chris Riemenschneider under Music, SXSW music festival Updated: March 13, 2014 - 3:51 AM
A patient is carried away after being struck by a vehicle on Red River Street in downtown Austin, Texas, during SXSW. / Jay Janner, AP, Austin American-Statesman

A patient is carried away after being struck by a vehicle on Red River Street in downtown Austin, Texas, during SXSW. / Jay Janner, AP, Austin American-Statesman

For the first time in the 28-year history of the South by Southwest Music Conference, the chaotic atmosphere that defines the festival turned deadly. Two people were killed and 23 more were taken to hospitals after a driver crashed through a barricade and barreled down a crowded Red River Street just after midnight Thursday.

The tragic incident happened outside Mohawk nightclub near Ninth Street, which is one of about four blocks of Red River that is blocked off for pedestrians to walk on during the event. Stay tuned to the Austin American-Statesman for the local updates. Statesman reporters said via Twitter that the driver of the car was fleeing from police after being pulled over for a DWI. Police said the suspect will be charged with murder. The two fatalities were reportedly riders on a motor scooter.

About an hour before the crash, the scene on Red River was relatively calm by SXSW standards. A moderately long line stretched outside Mohawk into the street for admittance to see Los Angeles punk legends X perform at 11:45 p.m. The line was also made up of fans wanting to see the act after X, rapper Tyler the Creator, who was scheduled to go on at 1 a.m., shortly after the crash occured. He did not perform and sent out this tweet: "Show isn't happening. Something sad happened."

Indie-rock heroine St. Vincent, a SXSW vet originally from Dallas, was just wrapping up her performance at Stubb’s when the tragedy a block away on Red River. She tweeted:

The tragedy likely would have been worse had it been on Friday or Saturday night, when that part of downtown is nearly elbow-to-elbow with people during SXSW. No other tragic incidents of this sort have ever occurred at the music festival, which is quite a remarkable track record for an event that floods the city with hundreds of thousands of fun seekers each March. The party atmosphere will be tempered greatly when the festival resumes mid-day Thursday.

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