LINCOLN, Neb. -- Two people were killed and 20 others were injured after a crash that sent two cars careening into a crowd of bystanders while an annual Memorial Day weekend “cruise” night was wrapping up in Nebraska’s capital, police said Monday.
Two women, ages 20 and 22, had been inside one of the cars and died in the Sunday night crash on O Street in Lincoln. Of the injured bystanders, one person was listed in critical condition and the others were treated at hospitals for injuries not believed to be life-threatening, police said.
“We do not believe nor is there any evidence this was an intentional act,” Lincoln police said in a statement.
Lincoln Police Chief Teresa Ewins said in a news conference Monday afternoon that neither of the vehicles involved in the crash was participating in the “Americruise” event, which has been taking place in the city since the early 1990s. It was a collision that could have happened at any time, she said.
“At the time of the collision there wasn't a lot of people out," Ewins said. "The cars were not flowing down street as normal during this event.”
Police said the crash happened when a 18-year-old Omaha man driving a black Ford Taurus traveling westbound on O Street struck a white Toyota Corolla that was “facing” eastbound. The women, both in the Corolla, were pronounced dead at the scene. The driver of the Taurus was taken to a hospital with non-life threatening injuries, police said.
The impact drove both vehicles onto the sidewalk. The Taurus had rolled over onto its top, trapping two victims who were rescued by bystanders who pushed the car back on its wheels.
O Street has been a popular spot for cruisers over the Memorial Day weekend and thousands of spectators have gathered at times to watch from business parking lots. However, authorities say some drivers have attempted dangerous maneuvers to excite the crowd, such as burnouts and speeding, and law enforcement had an increased presence this year, the Lincoln Journal Star reported.
“We'll be changing a lot of things in regards to people that are coming to Lincoln to cause havoc like that,” Ewins said, referring to the extracurricular activity as sideshows. “It's not acceptable. And yes, things will change.”
A spectator was killed at the event in July 2000 when a non-participant car veered off O Street and hit 39-year-old Connie McCullough. She died shielding her children.