VOLKMARSEN, Germany (Reuters) – A car plowed into a carnival parade in the western German town of Volkmarsen on Monday injuring 30 people, including children, some of them seriously, police said, adding it was too early to say what the driver’s motive was.
People react at the scene after a car ploughed into a carnival parade injuring several people in Volkmarsen, Germany February 24, 2020. Elmar Schulten/Waldeckische Landeszeitung via REUTERS.
Regional broadcaster Hessenschau said police believed the driver, identified as a 29-year-old German citizen, had acted deliberately, but that nothing more was immediately known.
German news website HNA cited witnesses as saying the man appeared to have targeted children and had driven “at full throttle” into the crowd, which had gathered for the traditional procession ahead of the Christian season of Lent.
“People were coming toward me, crying,” Bild newspaper quoted local county commissioner Reinhard Kubat as saying.
“There were mainly injured children in the street, but also older people. Children came up to me and said it sounded like “Plop, plop, plop” whenever the car ran over a person.”
A police spokesman in the regional center of Kassel said it was too early to comment on the driver’s possible motivation and added he did not rule out the possibility of an accident.
Asked how many were hurt, he said: “I would say about 30.”
Some people were seriously injured, including children, police said on Twitter.
Bild said a third of the injuries were serious and some were life-threatening and that police assumed it was an attack but there were no indications that it was politically motivated.
The incident comes less than a week after a man gunned down 11 people, including himself, in one of the worst racist attacks in Germany since World War Two.
Police called off all carnival parades in the German state of Hesse, where Volkmarsen is located, as a precautionary measure, but said they were not aware of any danger elsewhere in Germany.
Carnival is hugely popular in parts of western Germany, especially in Rhineland cities such as Cologne and Duesseldorf, where festivities peak on “Rose Monday” with tens of thousands attending street parades featuring comical or satirical floats.
Police cars and ambulances rushed to the scene in Volkmarsen, a small town in northern Hesse, 260 miles (420 km) west of Berlin.
“We are on the ground with a big deployment. An investigation is underway,” north Hesse police said on Twitter after the incident, which they said occurred at about 2:45 p.m. (1345 GMT).
Amateur pictures published online showed police officers standing next to a silver Mercedes-Benz car that appeared to have been involved.
German media said the driver deliberately broke through plastic barriers set up by police around the parade area, where 1,500 people were expected to gather.
The car had continued driving through the crowd for about 30 meters (33 yards) before coming to a halt, a witness told Hessenschau. Police were unable to question the driver for the time being, Welt newspaper said, without elaborating.
In 2016, a Tunisian man with Islamist militant ties plowed a truck into a Christmas market in Berlin, killing 12 people. He was later shot dead by Italian police after he fled Germany.
Additional reporting by Alexander Ratz and Kevin Liffey; writing by Paul Carrel and Philippa Fletcher; editing by Gareth Jones/Mark Heinrich