‘A tragic accident’: 3 killed when SUV barrels over crowd at Billerica auto auction

BILLERICA, MASS. (WHDH) - A Jeep SUV being shown to auto dealers at an indoor auction in Billerica Wednesday morning suddenly accelerated and crashed into a crowd before smashing through a concrete wall, killing three people and injuring nine others.

An auction employee, 78, was behind the wheel of the 2006 Grand Cherokee when it lurched forward at a high rate of speed and ran numerous people down at LynnWay Auto Auction around 10 a.m. Sources told 7News that the employee has a history of walking with a cane.

One man and two women were killed in the crash, Middlesex District Attorney Marian Ryan said. Nine other people were injured, including two with life-threatening injuries. The driver wasn’t hospitalized.

“The car accelerated anywhere between 60-80 miles per hour,” Edward Cruz told 7News after witnessing the confusion and chaos.

Massachusetts State Police investigators are working to reconstruct the accident, which happened while several hundred people were in the building, according to Ryan. Investigators said the employee mistook the accelerator pedal for the brake pedal.

“The preliminary investigation suggests this is a tragic accident,” Ryan said.

Another witness told 7News that he heard tires screeching before the out-of-control car drove into a crowd and crashed clear through a wall.

“I was checking out a car that I wanted to bid on and I heard a bang,” the witness said. “This sound went off like an explosion.”

Multiple ambulances and a medical helicopter were called to the scene. Medics could be seen wheeling people out on gurneys. Four people were taken to Lahey Hospital in Burlington, where one of the victims died from injuries suffered in the crash.

Ryan said police officers and fire officials were working detail when the crash happened, and jumped in to help immediately.

The crash is under investigation.

Statement from Lynnway Auto Auction President Jim Lamb:

On behalf of my entire company, I want to express our shock and sadness at the devastating accident that took place earlier today. We are stunned at the loss of life and serious injuries that occurred to our patrons.

We are heartbroken that this accident occurred at our premises with a vehicle driven by one of our drivers. Understandably, the driver is very distraught; he will not be driving cars at the auction until the investigation has concluded.

We want to extend our appreciation to all of the emergency personnel who rushed to the scene to help our patrons. Since the moment this happened, we have cooperated with investigators as they do their jobs to determine how and why this happened. We will continue to do so.

We are terribly sorry for what has occurred at our facility today. We extend our thoughts and prayers to the victims and their families at this terrible time.

For information on what generally takes place at the auction, 7’s Kim Lucey explains:

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