Hit-and-run driver kills 2 at SXSW Fest in Austin

Hit-and-run driver kills 2 at SXSW Fest in Austin

Credit: Photo: Jay Janner, AP

A patient is carried away after being struck by a vehicle on Red River Street in downtown Austin, Texas, on March 12.(Photo: Jay Janner, AP)

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wwltv.com

Posted on March 13, 2014 at 5:18 AM

Updated Thursday, Mar 13 at 8:13 AM

Kim Hjelmgaard, USA TODAY

AUSTIN, Texas -- A suspected drunken driver crashed through barriers at an Austin film and technology festival, killing two people and injuring 23 more, police said Thursday.

The tragedy cast a pall over downtown Austin as the city plays host to the annual South by Southwest festival, which draws tens of thousands of people for its program of films, music and interactive technology.

Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo said officers initially tried to pull over the driver at a gas station on the Interstate 35 service road around 12:30 a.m. The driver fled the wrong way down a one-way street and turned onto a street that had been closed after a concert. Acevedo said the vehicle hit pedestrians at a "high rate of speed."

Acevedo said the driver hit a man and a woman on a moped, then a taxi and a van, before stopping the vehicle and fleeing on foot. The driver was pursued, tased and taken into custody.

The two people on the moped were killed. Five of the injured were in critical condition, Acevedo said.

"We had a large crowd," Acevedo said at a 2:30 a.m. news conference. "I just thank God that a lot of the folks had already been pushed on the sidewalk or this could have been a lot worse."

Acevedo said the driver will be charged with two counts of capital murder.

Austin Mayor Lee Leffingwell released a statement sending thoughts and prayers to victims and their families. "Austin Police Department is investigating this matter as allegedly involving drunk driving," the statement said. "If this is true, this fact angers me. Drunk driving is never acceptable, and can lead to deadly consequences."

Contributing: KVUE in Austin.

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