(CNN) — A woman suspected of drunken driving crashed a car into a crowd watching Oklahoma State University’s homecoming parade in Stillwater on Saturday morning, killing three people and injuring 22 others, authorities said.
The car careened into the spectators just blocks from campus, turning a festive event into a scene of horror — what the university president called an “incredible tragedy.”
“I can’t describe it any more clearly than this: People flying in the air,” a witness, OSU graduate student Paul Sims said of the moment of impact.
The car’s driver, Adacia Avery Chambers, 25, of Stillwater, was arrested on suspicion of drunk driving, said Kyle Gibbs of Stillwater’s police department. Gibbs said the suspect is not believed to be an OSU student.
The names of those who were killed and injured weren’t immediately released. Eight critically injured people were flown to a hospital by helicopter; seven others suffered serious injuries, and seven more were hurt less seriously, Gibbs said.
The parade came about four hours before the school’s centerpiece homecoming event — a football game between nationally ranked OSU and the University of Kansas at Stillwater’s Boone Pickens Stadium.
OSU President V. Burns Hargis said that the victims and their families “will never be able to understand this, nor will we.”
“The Oklahoma State homecoming parade is probably one of the most wholesome, happy events … and to have it fouled like this is just a terrible tragedy,” Hargis said.
‘Smoke and panic’
Sims told CNN he was watching the parade with his daughter when a gray sedan hit spectators across the street from where he was standing.
“(The) vehicle … came to rest not long after they hit the first set of people,” Sims said.
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.”
Game to go 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.”
The school said it is “saddened by the tragic parade incident earlier this morning,” the school said on its Twitter account. “Our thoughts & prayers are with those affected.”
Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin said on Twitter that the state’s “thoughts and prayers are with those affected by the tragic events” at Oklahoma State.
Kansas University commented on the incident through its athletic department Twitter account: “Our thoughts are with Oklahoma State and those involved in the tragic accident this morning.”