Car crashes into high school band at Gulf Shores Mardi Gras parade, injuring 12

WKRG

GULF SHORES, Ala. (WKRG) – UPDATE (10:45 a.m. 3/1/17) Three middle school students remain hospitalized after a sport-utility vehicle plowed into a marching band during a Mardi Gras parade on the Alabama coast.

Gulf Shores city spokesman Grant Brown says nine other band members have been released from hospitals since the crash.

The young musicians were injured Tuesday when an SUV driven by a 73-year-old man in the parade accelerated quickly and struck members of the Gulf Shores High School band from behind.

Sources identified the driver to News Five as 73-year-old Larry Rathbun of Fairhope.  He was a part of the parade representing MOAA, the Military Officers Association of America.

Police say Rathbun is cooperating, and there’s no indication of drugs or alcohol. Authorities say the crash appears to be accidental, and no charges were filed.


UPDATE (9:30 p.m.) – All eight students treated at South Baldwin Regional Medical Center after the Mardi Gras tragedy in Gulf Shores have been released.

Students remain hospitalized at Sacred Heart in Pensacola and USA Medical Center in Mobile, according to Baldwin County Superintendent Eddie Tyler.

Sources identified the driver to News Five as 73-year-old Larry Rathbun of Fairhope. He was a part of the parade representing MOAA, the Military Officers Association of America.

ORIGINAL: A tragic start to Mardi Gras Day on the Gulf Coast. A car drove into a crowd of people before the start of a parade in Gulf Shores, Ala. The Gulf Shores High School marching band was in the area of the crash.

According to a city spokesperson, a late model SUV driven by a 73-year-old male from Fairhope struck the Gulf Shores Marching Band at the start of the parade.

12 band members were struck by the SUV and four of the victims are in critical condition.

The Baldwin County School System has released the following statement:

“We are yielding to the Gulf Shores Police Department regarding details that are available concerning this unthinkable incident. Right now our thoughts and prayers are with the Gulf Shores High School family. We greatly appreciate everyone’s thoughts and prayers, especially for those who have been injured and their families. I want to thank all the EMS and law enforcement professionals who responded and are still assisting families. I especially want to thank the Gulf Shores Police Department and Fire/EMS. We will continue to provide updates as information becomes available.”

Video of the scene shows multiple ambulances with several patients on stretchers. The extent of the injuries is unknown at this time.

Related: Gov. Bentley releases statement on Gulf Shores Mardi Gras parade accident

“A teenage band has just started to march down the parade route when they were struck from behind. The vehicle was a part of the parade,” says Grant Brown, a spokesperson for the city of Gulf Shores.

The vehicle was representing the Military Officers Association of America. Col. Jonathan Withington at the MOAA national headquarters confirms that a vehicle representing their Baldwin County chapter was involved in the crash. The identity of the driver is still unknown.

The city of Gulf Shores held a press conference Tuesday morning to update the crash at the Mardi Gras parade.

According to a city spokesperson, a late model SUV driven by a 73-year-old male from Fairhope struck the Gulf Shores Marching Band at the start of the parade.

12 bandmembers were struck by the SUV and four of the victims are in critical condition.

It is unknown whether alcohol or drugs played a factor, but authorities do not expect criminal intent. The driver and the vehicle are in police custody. Charges could be filed against the driver, but at this time, police have not made that determination.

The victims range in age from 12 to 17. Nine patients were transported to South Baldwin Medical Center in Foley, two were transported to Sacred Heart Hospital in Pensacola and one other victim was transported to Baptist Hospital in northwest Florida.

City officials tell News Five that the vehicle ended up on top of several students. All injuries are trauma related according to emergency officials.

The FBI did reach out to Gulf Shores officials to help in the investigation. The City turned down the offer because they do not believe the driver had criminal intent.

Alabama Highway 59 remains closed Tuesday afternoon.

The Gulf Shores Parade is officially canceled and the parade route is closed at this time.

City officials are asking anyone with cell phone video of the crash to not post the video to social media, but please email to bcowan@gulfshoresal.gov.

The Gulf Shores Parade is officially canceled and the parade route is closed at this time.

Our sister station, News 5 is working to gather more details and will post when there is an update. You can watch live coverage on the WKRG Facebook page.

The city of Orange Beach says no changes have been made to their parade schedule Tuesday afternoon. However, city officials are discussing the latest details and will post an update to social media if anything changes. At this time, the Orange Beach Parade is set to roll at 2 p.m.

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