Damascus, VA — A car drove into a crowd of hikers on Saturday, injuring up to 60 people. The vehicle was driven by an elderly man who may have suffered a medical emergency before the accident.
The incident happened around 2:10 pm local time during the Hikers Parade at the town’s Trail Days festival. The event is an annual celebration of the Appalachian Trail in Damascus.
Up to 60 people suffered injuries ranging from critical to superficial, though no fatalities were report. Three of those who were hurt the worst were flown to area hospitals by helicopter. Up to 15 more victims were taken to hospitals by ambulance, while the remaining victims were treated at the scene.
The victims of the car that drove into a crowd were tended to almost immediately, because some paramedics and other first-responders were participating in the parade. Damascus Police Chief Bill Nunley didn’t released the driver’s name or age, but stated that the individual was participating in the parade as well.
Multiple witnesses reported the driver was an elderly male. The man’s 1997 Cadillac was one of the last vehicles in the parade. The driver may have suffered a medical emergency before his car accelerated to about 25 mph and drove into the crowd on a two-lane bridge. The driver was among those who were taken to the hospital.
Nunley cited “quick action” by police, firefighters, paramedics, and hikers, who tended to the victims before they were transferred to hospitals. A volunteer firefighter even dove into the Cadillac to turn off the ignition. The driver of the car that ran into the crowd was apparently a hiker as well, who had traveled the Appalachian Trail in the past.
Damascus Mayor Jack McCrady stated that a donation fund was being set up to help with hospital bills for those who were injured. Some of them do not have medical insurance. McCrady explained, “We want to make sure they don’t suffer any greater loss than they already have.”