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Car plows into pedestrians near Planet Hollywood, killing one, injuring 37

21 December 2015

By Ricardo Torres
A car plowed into pedestrians on the sidewalk Sunday night on the Las Vegas Strip, killing one person and injuring 37 people, six critically.

The six critically injured were in stable condition by late Sunday night, Las Vegas police said.

The female driver of the 1996 Oldsmobile four-door sedan, only described as being in her 20s, was arrested near the Tuscany hotel on Flamingo Road shortly after the crash, which happened in front of the Paris Las Vegas and Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino hotels. She is being interviewed and tested for impairment, Metro Capt. Peter Boffelli told media gathered on Las Vegas Boulevard at about 8:45 p.m.

"This is a huge tragedy that has occurred on our Strip," he said.

At this point it hasn't been determined whether the crash was intentional or due to impairment, Boffelli said, but Metro's traffic, homicide and counterterrorism departments were called to conduct a "proper investigation."

At a later news conference, Metro Deputy Chief Brett Zimmerman said terrorism has been ruled out as a cause, but that the crash is being investigated as intentional. He said early reports of gunshots being fired at about the same time as the crash were false.

Zimmerman also said the woman hit pedestrians in at least two separate sidewalk sections, driving onto the sidewalk, then onto the road and back on the sidewalk before leaving the scene.

Bystander Justin Cochrane told the Review-Journal he witnessed an older, brown Oldsmobile plow into people, slow down and accelerate again.

He said people were chasing the car, which he described as having a busted-out windshield. Cochrane said he saw the car "crushing" people, including someone he described as a kid who looked about 10 years old.

Rabia and Atif Qureshi, who also witnessed the crash, said the vehicle plowed into pedestrians, sending them flying like "bowling pins."

Atif Qureshi, a Wisconsin physician, said he attended to some of the injured and noted at least six in very bad shape.

Gov. Brian Sandoval released a statement Sunday night saying he has spoken with Sheriff Joe Lombardo and will remain in contact with him as additional information is released.

"The state stands ready to help and will provide any assistance needed to ensure the safety of our visitors and residents," Sandoval said. "Kathleen and I extend our deepest sympathies to all who are affected by this shocking and tragic event. Additionally, I would like to thank the first responders and the medical professionals who are caring for the victims this evening."

About 70 Clark County Fire Department personnel responded to the crash at 6:38 p.m., Fire Department Capt. Greg Cassell said. By about 7 p.m., the first patient was being taken to a hospital.

Fifteen victims were sent to UMC, and three to Spring Valley Hospital Medical Center. Many of the injured taken to UMC were believed to be Canadian, from Montreal, and had requested a translator, according to a hospital spokeswoman. Two of the injured at UMC had been released as of about 10 p.m.

Sunrise Hospital and Medical Center treated 13 crash victims, 10 of whom had been discharged as of 11:15 p.m. Sunday, hospital spokeswoman Stacy Acquista said. The three remaining patients were in fair condition, she said.

It was not clear if others injured were treated at the scene or taken to a hospital for treatment.

The driver, who is not from Las Vegas, has been taken to Clark County Detention Center. Police are getting a warrant for a blood test, but she wasn't exhibiting extreme impairment, according to police Lt. Dan McGrath.

He confirmed that a 3-year-old toddler was in the car with the driver and was unharmed.

Police said the Oldsmobile is registered in Oregon. The woman told police that she arrived in Las Vegas a few days ago.

McGrath said police have interviewed about 20 people and are looking for more witnesses. Anyone with information about the crash can call 702-828-3521.

The crash occurred as the Miss Universe Pageant was wrapping up its live broadcast ceremonies and crowning of the 2015 winner, Miss Philippines. A representative of Caesars Entertainment, which owns Planet Hollywood, declined comment, referring inquires to Las Vegas police.

A similar incident occurred on Sept. 21, 2005, when a car jumped a curb and plowed into a group of pedestrians on the Strip in front of Bally's - Las Vegas, killing three and injuring 11 in what Las Vegas police called an intentional act.

The driver, Stephen Ressa, 27 at the time of the crash, was sentenced on Oct. 2, 2007, to hundreds of years in prison. Gordon Kusayanagi, 52, of Hollister, Calif., Mark Modaressi, 26, of Irvine, Calif., and 60-year-old Richard Bradford of Renton, Wash., were killed in the crash.

Authorities said the crash occurred shortly after Ressa beat his mother unconscious and stole her car from her home in Rialto, Calif.

in the 2005 crash, the car jumped the curb, and continued north for several hundred feet. Witnesses said the vehicle plowed through the sidewalk and kept accelerating even as bodies sprawled on the hood and others flew over the car.

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