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SXSW Tragedy

Austin Police & SXSW respond to Red River tragedy: Events will continue as scheduled

Crash in downtown Austin during SXSW
APD urged SXSW to continue with events following a tragic accident that left two people dead early Thursday morning. Photo courtesy of KVUE News

SXSW, the Austin Police Department and first responders discussed the SXSW Red River tragedy during a press conference late Thursday morning. Mayor Lee Leffingwell, who identified it as "truly a tragic event," acknowledged the performance of the first responders, who cleared the scene of victims between 15 and 50 minutes after the event. 

Harry Evans, chief of staff of the Austin Fire Department, said the department undergoes "ongoing training for mass casualty events like this." James Shamard of Austin-Travis County Emergency Medical Service echoed the statement, saying that responders have pre-plans for every big event like SXSW. Each day when crews arrive on scene, the mass casualty plan is reviewed. 

Two victims were pronounced dead at the scene. Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo identified the two as an Austin female who was struck while riding a moped, and a male from The Netherlands, who was hit while on a bicycle. (Earlier reports suggested both victims had been riding on the moped.)

Of the 23 injured, two patients are in very critical condition, three are receiving treatment and three are hospitalized with non-life-threatening injuries. Fifteen victims who were transported to local hospitals have been released. 

Roland Swenson, managing director of SXSW, said the organization is "stunned" by the events. "We plan to carry on with our scheduled daytime events at the Austin Convention Center," he continued. Swenson said that all SXSW staff and volunteers reported for regular duty on Thursday, and that SXSW "feel[s] that our best use is to continue to operate today."

"We urged them to continue," Acevedo said, adding that allowing one individual to ruin a wonderful, worldwide event would be "a victory of evil not a victory of humanity."

Although the suspect's name has not been released, Acevedo did say that it is a black adult male, and a blood sample (for blood alcohol content) is being analyzed. 

The Red Cross is expected to have a full list of those impacted by noon Thursday. You can call 1-800-928-4271 for more information.

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