Four are dead and more than 40 injured after a sedan traveling at a high rate of speed ran into a crowd of spectators during the Oklahoma State University homecoming parade Saturday morning.
The driver, identified by the Stillwater Police Department as Adacia Chambers, 25, of Stillwater, was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence.
Eyewitnesses said the vehicle was heading south on Main Street about 10:30 a.m. when it struck a parked police motorcycle before running through a crowd of spectators who were sitting and standing on the blocked-off Main Street at the intersection with Hall of Fame Avenue.
Bodies were scattered throughout the intersection and hundreds of spectators and likely eyewitnesses appeared to be in shock as they tried to process the scene and help the wounded victims.
Mothers rushed from the scene with crying children as emergency responders rushed in.
"At first we thought it was part of the show," said Konda Walker, a 1991 OSU alum from Anchorage, Alaska. "People were flying 30 feet into the air like rag dolls."
She was in town to take in the Homecoming festivities and watch the football game but said she was too shaken up.
Standing nearby was Dave Kapple, of Houston, Texas, who was in town to visit his son, a senior at OSU, and to watch the game.
"We were probably 10 feet away when the vehicle came barreling through. We heard somebody scream, 'Look out!.' "People were flying everywhere."
Eight were transported from the scene via air ambulance in critical condition.
Initial reports stated three were dead, 10 were in critical condition and 27 were transported, but even official accounts varied.
The number of injuries continued to climb throughout the day and by evening, four fatalities had been reported.
The department’s accident reconstruction team was working the scene Saturday afternoon and the roadway was open by 6 p.m.
Stillwater Police Department public information officer Capt. Kyle Gibbs said it will likely take several days to get additional information about the cause of the accident but he also said there was probable cause to support Chamber’s arrest for DUI.
Gibbs went on to thank Stillwater’s emergency management team, the Oklahoma Highway Patrol, Stillwater Fire Department and members of the Army National Guard. The wreck occurred as the parade was ending and they and other emergency responders, including members of the Payne County Sheriff’s mounted patrol, who were also taking part in the parade, were able to get on scene and provide assistance quickly.
City and university officials were visibly shaken.
Stillwater mayor Gina Noble said, “I just want to say we are heartbroken at this tragedy.”
Oklahoma State University president Burns Hargis also made a statement in which he expressed concern for the families of victims and alluded to other times the university has dealt with tragedy.
In 2001, the university was rocked when 10 members of the men’s basketball team, athletic staff and press corps were killed in an airplane crash in Colorado while on the way home from a game.
In 2011, tragedy struck again when women’s basketball coaches Curt Budke and Miranda Serna and athletic boosters Olin and Paula Branstetter were killed in another plane crash in Arkansas.
“OSU is devastated,” Hargis said. “The Oklahoma State homecoming parade is probably one of the most wholesome, happy events in the country and to have it fouled like this, these victims, is a terrible tragedy.
“We reach out and embrace the victims and their families. The Cowboy family pulls together. Unfortunately, we had to do it before...Tragically, we lost three. We don't want to lose more.”
Stillwater Medical Center treated 43 patients and transferred four patients by air ambulance to other hospitals in Oklahoma City and Tulsa, hospital spokesperson Shyla Eggars said.
Three patients were admitted to Stillwater Medical Center but all of them either had been discharged or were expected to be discharged by late Saturday, she said.
OU Medical Center reported it had received eight patients, five children and three adults.
Spokesperson Vallery Brown confirmed a two-year-old boy who had initially been treated at Stillwater Medical Center and later flown to OU Medical Center and Children’s Hospital had died there.
Four children and three adults remained hospitalized at OU Medical Center at press time.
Gibbs said he is still working on a list of names of those injured during Saturday’s vehicle collision.
At this point the City Attorney is deciding whether to procede with this case as a traffic incident or a murder investigation, which could affect when and how information is released.
“I am still waiting to get some advice from the city attorney,” Gibbs said on whether or not a list of names would be released Saturday evening “we are still in the process of contacting next of kins as well.”
He went on to say that although no charges have been filed, he speculates Chambers could be charged with either vehicular manslaughter or negligent homicide.
Stillwater News Press reporter Timothy Cole contributed to this report.