A car driven at high speed by a woman suspected of being under the influence of alcohol plowed into crowds watching a homecoming parade at Oklahoma State University on Saturday (local time), killing at four people and injuring more than 40 others.
Witnesses described bodies being flung dozens of feet into the air as the gray Hyundai Elantra slammed into the throng at the intersection of Main Street and Hall of Fame Avenue in Stillwater, some 130 kilometres northeast of Oklahoma City, as the parade celebrating the school's homecoming was ending.
Authorities said the car crashed through barricades and struck an unmanned police motorcycle before barreling through the spectators.
Representatives for OU Medical Center in Oklahoma City said the hospital received eight victims from the crash, five of them children, ranging in condition from good to critical. One of those patients, a two-year-old child, later died.
Stillwater Medical Center said in a statement that its staff had treated about 40 patients aged 2 to 65. About half of them had been released by Saturday evening (local time).
At least five of the most seriously injured patients were children.
The driver, identified as 25-year-old Adacia Avery Chambers, was taken into custody on suspicion of driving while under the influence of alcohol, said Captain Kyle Gibbs of the Stillwater Police.
"I've been here 29 years and I can't recall an incident of this magnitude," Gibbs told reporters at the scene.
The suspect does not appear to have been a student at Oklahoma State University, Gibbs said. The mayor's statement said she was a resident of Stillwater.
"At first we thought it was part of the show," Konda Walker, a 1991 graduate of OSU, told the local Stillwater News Press. "People were flying 30 feet (9 meters) into the air like rag dolls."
Megan Lantz of Ponca City, Oklahoma, told the Oklahoman newspaper that about 100 people were standing on the corner at the time the car, going between 72 and 80 kph, struck the crowd.
"We were facing the parade and heard tires squealing and then started to hear the car hitting things and people and there was screaming and people running away," Lantz, 32, told the paper for a story on its website.
Hours later the car was still resting, crumpled, against a lamppost on Main street, the intersection littered with clothes, blankets, lawn chairs and water bottles belonging to the victims. Streets were blocked off and secured by members of the National Guard. Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin said on Twitter that she was en route to Stillwater and that her thoughts and prayers were with those affected.
My thoughts and prayers are with those affected by the tragic events at @okstate today. Multiple law enforcement agencies are assisting— Governor Mary Fallin (@GovMaryFallin) October 24, 2015
After the crash, Oklahoma State University said it decided against cancelling its homecoming football game, which went ahead as planned against Kansas and was dedicated to the victims. Some 25,000 students attend the university.
"We are shocked and heartbroken by this horrible tragedy. The Oklahoma State University Homecoming parade is the most wholesome of events and to have it marred in such a way is incomprehensible," the school's president, V. Burns Hargis, said.
"The Cowboy Family is devastated by events at this morning's homecoming parade," the school said on its website.