NEW ORLEANS (AP) — It’s too soon to discuss whether new safety rules will be established after a man accused of driving drunk plowed into a Mardi Gras parade crowd, a New Orleans police spokesman said Monday.
“It’s probably a little premature,” Michael “Beau” Tidwell said. “We’re working now to make sure everything was handled correctly and victims were well taken care of.”
He said he’s also trying to track down why a police report puts the number of people hit at 32. Earlier statements had the number at 28, with 21 taken to hospitals and seven declining treatment.
The accident occurred Saturday night during one of the season’s glitziest parades. The Krewe of Endymion travels a route more than 5 miles long, most of it on four-lane streets divided by a wide median.
Thousands of people throng the sidewalks and medians to watch the elaborate floats and clamor to catch beads and trinkets tossed by riders. Those in the median are facing away from the side of the street that remains open for traffic. A pickup truck hit two other vehicles on that side of the street, then wound up in the median, police said.
Those injured include police Lt. Michelle Woodfork, niece of former Police Superintendent Warren Woodfork, Tidwell said. The current superintendent, Michael Harrison, said earlier that she was on parade duty.
Driver Neilson Rizzuto, 25, is jailed, his bond set at $125,000 on charges of first-degree negligent vehicular injuring, hit-and-run driving causing serious injury and reckless driving. Police have said a breath test showed a blood alcohol level nearly triple the level considered legal proof of intoxication.
At least three victims remained hospitalized overnight with moderate to serious injuries, police said Sunday. There were no fatalities.
Ages of the victims ranged from 1 to patients in their 50s, police said.
Tidwell said health privacy rules meant that he could not give more detailed information about the victims or update their conditions.
Asked by reporters Saturday night whether police suspected terrorism, Superintendent Harrison said, “We suspect that that subject was highly intoxicated.”
Rizzuto is being held on $125,000 bond in a New Orleans jail, online records show.
Commissioner Robert Blackburn said if Rizzuto makes bond he would be placed under house arrest, required to wear an ankle monitor and forbidden from driving, The Advocate reported (http://bit.ly/2mtjUnG).
The commissioner told Rizzuto, who was handcuffed and wearing an orange jumper, that he was setting the bail for an amount he “envisioned” for about 21 counts — referring to the number of people who went to the hospital.
Rizzuto’s father told WWL-TV (http://bit.ly/2lZWmcs) that he was still trying to understand what happened and that his son is a “good kid.” John Rizzuto told the station he spoke with his son multiple times Sunday morning and that his son said “a stranger gave him a drink off the street and that’s the last thing he remembered.”
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.
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