Here it is in pictures, a SUV ploughed into a crowded intersection in Melbourne’s Flinders Street, where people were simply crossing the road during peak hour.
19 people have been injured, four critically, with no deaths so far. Police say the act was intentional, but are not at this stage linking it to terrorism. The man at the wheel, a 32-year-old Australian of Afghan descent, has a mental illness and a history of ice addiction.
- The driver was known to police for driving offences over recent months. He was also known to police in relation to a minor assault from around 2010.
It’s alleged he drove up the tram tracks in a family member’s car and accelerated, before crashing into pedestrians and into the tram stop.
The driver was the only person in the vehicle and no weapons were seen in the four-wheel drive.
- A second man, 24, was arrested at the scene but was not in the white Suzuki four-wheel drive when it crashed into commuters about 4.45pm.
He was filming the scene at the time and allegedly had three knives in his bag. There is no known relationship between the men and Mr Patton said it was “probable” he would be exonerated. The second man was not known to police.
I was working at the time, helping an older lady who lives in a cottage in Spring Hill (an old suburb, next to the CBD, for foreigners), so I could not give it full attention, but NewsRadio covered it solid for probably two hours, with all sorts of eye-witness accounts.
It seems that the public immediately apprehended the driver, led by an off-duty policeman. However, every victim had multiple people assisting them. The police arrived in about two minutes, with the ambulance shortly thereafter.
Importantly, the police allowed those assisting to continue until the paramedics arrived.
Everyone I heard commented favourably on the response by the police and emergency services.
There was plenty of coverage at the ABC and most media organs.
At this stage all I will say is that when this kind of thing happens, there is a ‘copycat’ factor which makes it more likely to happen again.
What the courts will make of the incident is anyone’s guess and may depend on whether anyone dies. In recent times the ‘careless’ driver who hit and killed model Yasmin McAllister got no jail. Magistrate Barry Cosgrove said:
- “I do not sentence you on the harm caused but rather on the conduct that led to that harm.”
In that case the driver intended no harm.
In this case if terrorism was involved, the answer would be easy – lock him up and throw away the key.
Meanwhile we are reminded that life is fragile.