18-year-old tourist killed as driver plows into pedestrians in Times Square

NEW YORK (KTVU, FOX NY and AP) -- The tourist killed when a man drove into a crowd in New York City's Times Square was identified as a Michigan teenager on vacation.

18-year-old Alyssa Elsman from Portage, Michigan was reportedly visiting the city with her family when tragedy hit, according to the NY Post. Elsman and her 13-year-old sister both on the sidewalk when the speeding car crashed into them and at least 20 others.

A man who appeared intoxicated drove his car the wrong way up a Times Square street Thursday and plowed into pedestrians on the sidewalk, authorities and witnesses said. The driver was taken into custody and being tested for alcohol.

Pandemonium erupted when the vehicle barreled through the prime tourist location and came to rest with two of its wheels in the air. The car leaned on a lamppost and steel barriers intended to block vehicles from getting onto the sidewalk.

"He's just mowing down people," said Asa Lowe, of Brooklyn, who was standing outside a store when he heard screaming. "He didn't stop. He just kept going," he said.

Rob Eikel, an Orinda resident who is the husband of a KTVU FOX 2 employee, was visiting New York and witnessed the car driving by during the incident.  Eikel was in the Levi Strauss store when he heard people screaming and saw them run past the door.

Eikel saw a burgundy car that he says was "flooring it," estimating the speed at about 50 mph. "Unfortunately he ran over a woman in front of me, and then he kept going and then I saw him go another two blocks before he collided with something - some barrier where it launched his car up into the air," said Eikel. 

Eikel left the store and walked down to the scene where the vehicle hit the pedestrians. He saw what he calls a "grisly scene." Eikel says, "There were just bodies. Bodies all over the sidewalk."

The man driving appeared to be in his mid-30s and didn't have his shirt on, according to Eikel. He witnessed law enforcement loading the man into the back of a squad car. 

Police have shut down Times Square. All of the buildings are evacuated and no one can get in, said Eikel. 

He said there were quite a few people who are still in shock at the scene and other people in the area who are not aware of what happened. 

Eikel says police arrived at the scene immediately with a massive response. "They handled the situation very professionally." He adds that he saw quite a few bystanders rushing to the scene. 

The crash happened at midday on a hot, clear day that brought large crowds of people into the streets to enjoy the good weather. Video posted online showed steam or smoke pouring from the car for a few moments after it stopped moving. 

After the car struck a barricade and stopped, the driver climbed out of his vehicle, Lowe said. 

"He just started running until people tackled him down," Lowe said. "Citizens just reacted."

The 26-year-old driver from the Bronx was taken into custody and was undergoing tests for alcohol, a law enforcement official told The Associated Press. The man has a history of driving while intoxicated, according to the law enforcement official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation was ongoing.

The crash killed one person and injured up to 20 others, the Fire Department of New York confirmed.

Police do not suspect a link to terrorism, but the bomb squad has responded as a precaution to check the vehicle. 

Tourists Patrick and Kelly Graves of Sheboygan, Wisconsin, were waiting to get on a tour bus when they heard the crash.

Kelly Graves said she feared the worst, maybe a bomb, as "chaos" erupted and people began running. 

People rushed to help the injured, who were lying on the sidewalk.  

he White House said President Donald Trump has been "made aware" of the situation in Times Square and will continue to receive updates as the situation unfolds. Press secretary Sean Spicer tweeted that Trump was briefed before New York authorities confirmed the death. 

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, along with police and city officials, were at the scene of the crash.

The sidewalks in many parts of Times Square and surrounding blocks are lined with metal posts designed to prevent cars from getting onto the sidewalks and other public areas.

That network of barricades, though, is far from a complete defense. There are many areas where vehicles could be driven onto packed sidewalks or public plazas.

Times Square also has a heavy police presence at all hours of the day and night.  

 The Associated Press contributed to this report.