May 19, 2013 in Nation/World

Marchers in Virginia parade struck down by car

Debra Mccown Associated Press
 
Associated Press photo

People attend to a victim hit by a car during the Hikers Parade in Damascus, Va., on Saturday. Officials said about 60 people were injured.
(Full-size photo)

DAMASCUS, Va. – An elderly driver plowed into dozens of hikers marching in a Saturday parade in a small Virginia mountain town and investigators were looking into whether he suffered a medical emergency before the accident.

About 50 to 60 people suffered injuries ranging from critical to superficial, but no fatalities were reported. Three of the worst injured were flown by helicopter to area hospitals. Their conditions weren’t immediately available.

Another 12 to 15 victims were taken to hospitals by ambulance and the rest were treated at the scene, where some paramedics and other first responders were participating in the parade.

It happened around 2:10 p.m. during the Hikers Parade at the Trail Days festival, an annual celebration of the Appalachian Trail in Damascus, near the Tennessee state line about a half-hour drive east of Bristol.

Damascus police Chief Bill Nunley didn’t release the driver’s name or age but said he was participating in the parade and he had traversed the Appalachian Trail in the past. Multiple witnesses described him as an elderly man.

Nunley said the man’s 1997 Cadillac was one of the last vehicles in the parade and the driver might have suffered an unspecified medical problem when his car accelerated to about 25 mph and struck the crowd on a two-lane bridge along the town’s main road. The driver was among those taken to hospitals.

“It is under investigation and charges may be placed,” Nunley said.

Witnesses said the car had a handicapped parking sticker and it went more than 100 feet before coming to a stop.

“He was hitting hikers,” said Vickie Harmon, a witness from Damascus. “I saw hikers just go everywhere.”

Nunley cited quick action by police, firefighters, paramedics and hikers to tend to the victims, including a volunteer firefighter who dove into the car to turn off the ignition. The firefighter, whose name wasn’t released, suffered minor injuries.

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