Car plows into Times Square crowd; 1 dead, about 20 hurt

The carnage raised immediate fears of terrorism, fueled by recent attacks in England, France and Germany in which vehicles plowed through crowds of pedestrians. But investigators quickly turned their focus to the sobriety and mental health of the driver, identified as Bronx resident Richard Rojas.

"I wasn't even all the way in when the vehicle sped by", perhaps 10 feet behind her, said Long, a 54-year-old who was in town to see a musical.

Officials said Rojas has two prior arrests for DWI - 2008 in Queens and 2015 in Manhattan - and was last arrested in May for menacing. He tested negative for alcohol Thursday and drug tests were pending.

The department said 15 other victims suffered less serious injuries. "We initially thought they were filming something".

The vehicle was on fire, the AFP photographer said.

The motorist reportedly drove the wrong way up Seventh Avenue for up to three blocks, hitting several people along the way before crashing into a pole at 45th Street and Broadway, police and witnesses said.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said 22 others were injured. Officials added that there is no indication that this was an act of terror.

The red sedan overturned, resting on steel barricades created to protect pedestrians and block vehicular traffic.

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Annie Donahey, 24, had just left work on Seventh Avenue between 42nd and 43rd streets when the auto, a maroon Honda, sped past her and slammed into pedestrians on the sidewalk. He was combative with officers arresting him, authorities said. "People were trying to get off the street, as if he was going to jump off the vehicle and start shooting".

"If you didn't know her, you might think she's reserved or shy", school principal Eric Alburtus said.

"I was on 45th Street in my vehicle when I heard the sound of a auto and commotion - everyone was running". "No particular words. Nothing uttered, just screams". He was combative with officers who handcuffed him, authorities said. "He wasn't running as if he was drunk".

"I've seen some insane stuff, but this is pretty nuts", he said.

The 26-year-old driver, a US Navy veteran and US citizen, is in custody.

Emergency personnel treat a victim after a auto ploughed through a crowd of pedestrians during lunchtime at New York's Times Square, Thursday, May 18, 2017.

Images that emerged shortly after the incident showed him being restrained by officers and bundled into a police auto.

New York Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro said four people were critically injured but were expected to survive.

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