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'Drunk driver' charged in New Orleans Mardi Gras truck crash

The pick-up truck plowed into a crowd of people, injuring dozens, at the height of the Mardi Gras celebrations. A police officer was among the victims, although her injuries were not life-threatening.

A 25-year-old man accused of plowing a pickup truck into a crowd of spectators at a Mardi Gras parade in New Orleans was arrested and charged with injuring 28 people, authorities said on Sunday. The crash brought chaos to the city's marquee celebration.

New Orleans police booked Neilson Rizzuto after taking him into custody in "a highly intoxicated state" immediately after the accident on Saturday evening, according to a statement.

USA Neilson Rizutto (picture alliance/AP Photo/New Orleans Parish Sheriff's Office)

The suspect, Neilson Rizzuto, was charged in New Orleans

Rizzuto faces two charges of vehicular negligence injuring in the first degree, hit-and-run driving and the reckless operation of a motor vehicle, police said.

In a statement, Mayor Mitch Landrieu referred to the suspect as a "drunk driver."

Video footage from the scene showed pandemonium immediately following the incident, but the Krewe of Endymion parade, the largest and most popular of numerous Mardi Gras season parades in New Orleans, continued with little or no interruption.

"We suspect that that subject was highly intoxicated," Police Chief Michael Harrison said Saturday evening. Asked by the media if terrorism was suspected, Harrison didn't say "No," but did say it looked like a drunk-driving case.

Watch video 00:23

Crash mars Mardi Gras parade in New Orleans

Dozens were injured

Twenty-one people were hospitalized after the crash, including five who were taken to the trauma center, but their condition did not appear to be life-threatening, according Dr. Jeff Elder, city emergency services director.

Seven of the injured declined to be hospitalized, he said.

The victims range in age from as young as 3 or 4 years to adults in their 30s and 40s, Elder said.

A New Orleans police officer was among the injured, but Harrison said the officer was in "good spirits" as she was undergoing tests to determine the extent of her injuries.

While people headed home, police and city officials assessed the accident scene.

Saturday night's parade was put on by the Krewe of Endymion, which is known for its long, elaborate floats and the big party it hosts at the Superdome after the parade.

One woman at the scene told a local newspaper, "The New Orleans Advocate," that a silver truck whisked past her as she was walking through the intersection.

Carrie Kinsella said, "I felt a rush it was so fast."

Kourtney McKinnis, 20, told the Advocate that the driver of the truck seemed almost unaware of what he had just done.

"He was just kind of out of it," she said.

bik/jm (AP, Reuters)

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