A woman suspected of drunken driving crashed a car into a crowd of spectators at Oklahoma State University’s homecoming parade, killing four people — including a 2-year-old — authorities in Stillwater said Saturday.
Three adults were pronounced dead at the scene, while the fourth victim, the young boy, died from his injuries at OU Medical Center Children’s Hospital, according to a Stillwater police statement.
Spokesman Capt. Kyle Gibbs said Saturday night that 44 people had been injured, an uptick from previous reports.
Four children and three adults were hospitalized at OU Medical Center, according to hospital spokeswoman Vallery Brown.
While authorities did not immediately release the names of those killed and injured, the president of the University of Central Oklahoma said one of the people killed was Nikita Nakal, an MBA student from Mumbai, India.
“While our thoughts and prayers are with the Oklahoma State University community tonight following the tragic events during OSU’s homecoming parade this morning, it is with deep sadness that I ask you to extend those sentiments to the family and friends of one of our own students,” wrote President Don Betz. “Our students come to Central with their unique goals, hopes and dreams, and Nikita was undoubtedly no different.”
Gibbs said the car’s driver, Adacia Avery Chambers of Stillwater, was arrested at the scene on suspicion of driving under the influence and taken to the city jail. She is not believed to be an OSU student, he said.
According to a police statement, Chambers drove her 2014 Hyundai Elantra into an unmanned police motorcycle before careening into the crowd of spectators.
When asked by a reporter whether the 25-year-old Chambers was “obviously intoxicated,” Gibbs said, “Certainly probable cause for the arrest, yes sir.”
Gibbs said that Oklahoma state law mandates blood tests for any “serious fatality accident.” The results of those tests won’t be known for several days, he said.
The deadly crash occurred at 11:31 ET, just hours before the school’s centerpiece homecoming event — a football game between the nationally ranked, undefeated OSU Cowboys and the University of Kansas — and only two blocks from the soon-to-be jam packed 50,000-person Boone Pickens Stadium.
‘People flying in the air’
The festive scene turned into one of horror, one the university president called a “horrible tragedy.”
“We are shocked and heartbroken by this horrible tragedy,” said President V. Burns Hargis. “The Oklahoma State University Homecoming parade is the most wholesome of events and to have it marred in such a way is incomprehensible.”
“I can’t describe it any more clearly than this: People flying in the air,” OSU graduate student Paul Sims said of the moment of impact.
Another witness, Geoff Haxton, said he was about 100 yards from the crash site.
“All there was was smoke and panic. Half the emergency personnel in the county were here,” Haxton said.” People were running. (My) first instinct was to get my kids away from the street.”
Two Stillwater Fire Department vehicles participating in the parade were among the scene’s first responders, according to Tom Bradley, the city’s fire chief.
Game goes on
After careful deliberation, officials decided to let the football game proceed, Hargis said.
“We’re going to play, and we’re going to remember the victims at the game, and we’re going to move forward,” Hargis said. “But we will remember what’s happened today.”
Before the game, the OSU football team knelt in solemn prayer at the 25-yard line.
Fox Sports sportscaster Tim Brando described the pregame atmosphere as “the kind of somber feeling” that he’d never had before. But, he said, “there is a game to be played, and a football team that is undefeated.”
Tragedy familiar to OSU athletics
Coping with tragedy is nothing new for Oklahoma State University’s athletic department.
In 2001, a plane carrying the men’s basketball team crashed in a snow storm in Colorado returning home from a game. Ten people — including two players, a broadcaster and university personnel — were killed.
In 2011, the women’s head basketball coach and an assistant were killed in a plane crash in Arkansas.
“When something like this happens and, God forbid it happened again, we have to pull together as a family. We’ve got to try to do that,” Hargis said after the 2011 crash.
On Saturday, he echoed those words.
“The Cowboy family pulls together. Unfortunately, we’ve had to do it before. We’ll do it again.”