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Tragedy Strikes the SXSW Festival Overnight, Leaving Two Dead and Many Injured

By Dustin Rowles | Trade News | March 13, 2014 | Comments ()


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As those of us on staff who attended the SXSW festival this year made our ways home yesterday, and the SXSW festival turned its focus from film to movies, tragedy struck early this morning as a drunk driver fleeing from the police drove into a large crowd, killing two and leaving as many as 23 injured, some very seriously.

Here’s the report from the Austin Chronicle:

The tragedy that played out on Red River St., just outside the Mohawk and during the first full day of the SXSW Music conference, stunned fest goers who were ushered away from the area by public safety officials who quickly shut down Red River St. from East 9th to East 12th Sts. just after 12:30 am Thursday. The intersection at East 10th St. was littered with debris, the pavement in places striped with blood, as first responders worked to treat the wounded. Two people were killed and five are considered critical; the rest have been classified as mild or “walking wounded,” Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo told a gaggle of reporters just before 2:30 am. Acevedo said the incident started when police working DWI patrol in the area sought to stop a man driving a car near the Shell gas station on the southbound service road of IH-35 at East 9th St. Instead of stopping, the driver of the small imported sedan maneuvered through the gas station lot, around the other cars there, in order to evade the police. The driver then pulled out of the gas station traveling west, accelerating “at a high rate of speed, going the wrong way on a one-way street,” Acevedo said.

The officer followed, turned on the lights of his police car and “tried to overtake” the vehicle, Acevedo said, but the driver still did not stop. Instead the man turned right, northbound onto Red River St., driving around a police-manned barricade set up to block traffic during SXSW.

The driver continued speeding up the street, past the Mohawk, striking “multiple pedestrians,” Acevedo said. At East 11th St., the man struck a moped with a man and woman on it, killing them both, he said. The driver also struck a taxi before crashing his car into a van parked at the northwest corner of Red River and East 11th Sts. The man then fled from the scene on foot; police chased him, used a taser to subdue him, and arrested him, Acevedo said.

It was a grisly scene, according to witness accounts on Twitter, with multiple people bleeding onto the streets, and others trying to help their friends up and get them medical assistance. It’s a really unfortunate incident, and of course there’s no one to blame but the asshole drunk who decided to flee from the police, who we understand could potentially face the death penalty, as the suspect will be charged with two counts of capital murder (and it is Texas, after all).

Prayers and thoughts go out to the families of the deceased, and we wish a speedy recovery to the injured.

Here’s heart wrenching footage from the scene, featuring many injured and being tended to by medical professionals.

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Comments Are Welcome, Jerks Will Be Banned


  • e jerry powell

    KXAN just ran a piece they did with one of the writers from Towleroad.com that was uncomfortably close to the incident as well.

    Fortunately, as downtown festivals repulse me, I was already in bed and didn't hear about the tragedy until I logged on this afternoon.

    The top two counts will be capital murder, yes, but I'm not convinced that the DA will necessarily be able to make that stick; at least it can be emphasized that the ... driver was actively evading arrest when he drove his car into the crowd, which would make it homicide during the commission of another felony. Whether or not the state actually pursues the death penalty is up to the DA, but as a capital crime, it's pretty much guaranteed that the only way he's getting out of prison is in a body bag and the question becomes how many years that's going to take. As this is Texas, unless he forgoes automatic appeals of any convictions, he could still conceivably die a natural death before anyone sets an execution date, no matter how execution happy Rick Perry/Greg Abbott may be at the time.

  • Sara_Tonin00

    Unless, you know, affluenza defense. (as much as it depresses me to say that)

  • e jerry powell

    Except that I can't think of a single black person in America that isn't genetically immune to "affluenza," myself included. "Hood rich" is a completely different disorder.

    :-(

    Apparently he was scheduled to perform hip-hop at Club 1802 that night. Whether is was part of the festival or not hasn't been made clear, nor are all the circumstances leading up to the deaths. He had been pulled over by the police, that much we know for sure.

  • Sara_Tonin00

    Oh, he's black? Then yeah, the law will come down hard. And people will be outraged on both sides, and the affluenza case WILL be brought up. Ugh.

    I've got some end of the week depressed about the state of the world going on right now.

  • e jerry powell

    I am under the general depression warning. I'm going back to bed and I may wake up sometime Sunday or Monday.

  • amberdragonfly

    This was a tragic, horrible attack on innocent people. I'm praying for all the folks who were there. My step daughter was with her mother a block away when it happened. It terrifies me that they could have been caught up in this.

  • kinoumenthe

    In defence of Dustin, the video isn't "sensational" in tone and doesn't get any closer to anybody injured (or other…) than is shown in the header image.
    Everybody is very subdued and the scene is mostly very silent. There are two interviews of people present or near the incident as it happened telling what they observed of it.
    Note that this isn't to tell anybody to watch it.

  • Here's a thought: if you don't like what's in the video...dont watch the video.

  • Jiffylush

    If a website you frequent does something you feel is beneath them, tell them.

  • iamahammerheadshark

    Agreed, I hold Pajiba to a higher level of discourse than this. Including the video does not add anything substantive to the post.

  • KellyHWilliams

    thanks you fucking genius

  • iamahammerheadshark

    I don't think inclusion of a video like this should be on a Pajiba article. That's Gawker's schtick. No way in hell I'm going to click something that I'm guessing shows people who have been run over?

    Seriously, why would you post that on Pajiba? It adds no value or substance, it's just tasteless.

  • Steve Ward

    "People. Hurt. Injured. Bad."

    Well shit, thanks for that on-the-spot reporting, Cronkite. I get documenting something shitty like this, but if you're going to make it about yourself like a true bag of shit, at least do a little better than "People. Hurt. Injured. Bad."

  • Mrs. Julien

    Thank you for letting us know that you are all okay.

  • dizzylucy

    I have no desire to watch people in probably the worst moment of their lives.
    I will however say a thank you to the first responders who helped everyone.

  • Lollygagger9

    It says a lot about this site that when I first heard about this sadness my thought was to make sure all your writers were accounted for. That said - don't embed videos like that. For all you know, that could be the first time someone learns their loved one is injured or close to death. It would be more responsible to link to news stories on it if you want to share information.

  • BWeaves

    At first, I thought this was a joke post. Then I realized Dustin was serious, and my heart goes out to the wounded and their families.

    However, I refuse to click on the video. No. No way.

  • e jerry powell

    I haven't seen a news report here yet that contains any graphic footage, but I'm not morbid enough to go trolling for it, either.

  • Fabius_Maximus

    Why would I want to watch that?

    Why would you embed a video like this?

  • John G.

    I'm guessing Austinites have a real love/hate relationship with SXSW. They can't deny the money it brings in once a year, but there's also shit like this.

  • e jerry powell

    This was definitely bigger that the run-of-the-mill SXSW annoyances.

    I've lived in the area for almost seventeen years and in town for thirteen. My first SXSW headache was, appropriately enough, working for a state agency downtown. The bugaboo there was really just the annoyance of getting off work and not being able to get home for an hour and a quarter because I had to get out of the parking garage (paid for by the agency during the day, but a free-for-all pay facility after five), out of downtown and home without even thinking about stopping anywhere to get food.

    But that's seriously bitching about minor inconveniences. Loss of life definitely trumps anything that residents have to complain about otherwise.

  • John G.

    right, but surely people die from drinking and driving related accidents at other times in Austin.

  • e jerry powell

    True, that does happen. A little more than twenty times a year, which is a lot more than most cities in Texas, but by comparison, Houston has just under 100 per year, Dallas has just under 50, and San Antonio has about 30.

    In fact, if I'm out, I try to stay out until four or five in the morning so that I can be sure all the drunks are off the freeway before I try to go anywhere, and I'm normally WAY north of downtown, which says something about how bad the drunk driving thing is. At least the downtown buses run all night, everywhere else, people are taking their lives into their own hands.

    Last night notwithstanding, the police are generally very diligent about DWI stops particularly with "no refusal" weekends, where if you refuse a field test, they'll just haul you in and draw your blood at the station. The law is taken seriously, but greater enforcement requires more police than the city can afford.

  • Three_nineteen

    The article doesn't say whether or not the driver was attending SXSW. Maybe the festival just provided the victims.

  • e jerry powell

    That could be said, yes. I get the impression from the last two hours of news reports that the guy wasn't here for the festival.

  • Jiffylush

    That's just awful and there is no way in hell I am going to watch that. Why a site I really like would post exploitative material like this is beyond me.

    So for everyone that did click to watch the pain of others, why did you do that? Did peeking in on the pain of others make you feel empathetic? I seriously want to know.

  • Ironically, I was uninterested in the video until I scrolled down and saw people waxing self-righteous in the comments. This made me curious and so I went back and watched to see what all the fuss about.

    As for the video itself, it's mostly just people after the fact talking about what happened. If the video had captured the actual incident you might have a leg to stand on, but as it is, your reaction comes off a bit over-wrought.

  • Guest

    Because I'm not really interested in shielding myself away from the grim reality that the news sometimes is, and encasing myself in a fluffly shell of 'it'll be alright it'll be alright'. I had no idea what further details that video might have held other than the fact that people got seriously hurt and died. That's why I clicked the video.

    But thanks for passive agressively letting us know how much you think you're morally better than those who did watch it!

  • Sars

    that was my reaction- I just cant watch the anguish of others- already know what happened- this video has no value outside of a court hearing for the perp

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