Suspected drunk driver arrested after a pickup ploughs into parade in New Orleans

By News Corp Australia Network, AP, Staff writers

The suspected drunk driver who allegedly ploughed a pick-up into a crowd enjoying a Mardi Gras parade in New Orleans has been identified as 25-year-old Neilson Rizzuto.

Rizzuto was arrested on a number of charges and was being held at the city's jail after a rampage left 28 people injured, including five critically.

His grandmother, Lorettz Rizzuto, said her grandson was hard-working and not known to have a drinking problem.

Police respond to a scene where a pickup truck plowed into a crowd watching the Krewe of Endymion parade and injured a number of people in the Mid-City section of New Orleans. Photo / AP
Police respond to a scene where a pickup truck plowed into a crowd watching the Krewe of Endymion parade and injured a number of people in the Mid-City section of New Orleans. Photo / AP

"He was employed since last week, that I know of," she told NOLA.com. "He's a very good worker. His daddy's always talking good about him working hard, working good hours and maintaining his bills and not getting into trouble."

The shocking incident happened on Fridayduring one of the busiest nights of Mardi Gras when thousands of people throng the streets of Mid-City to watch the elaborate floats and clamour to catch beads and trinkets tossed from riders.

"We suspect that subject was highly intoxicated," Police Chief Michael Harrison had said.

Mr Harrison was asked by the media if terrorism was suspected. While he didn't say "No," he did say it looks like a case of drink driving.

Twenty-one people were hospitalised after the crash with five victims taken to the trauma centre in guarded condition.

However, their conditions did not seem to be life-threatening, said Dr Jeff Elder, city emergency services director. Seven others declined to be hospitalised.

New Orleans emergency personnel attend to injured parade watchers after the truck drove into a crowd and injured at least 28 people. Photo / AP
New Orleans emergency personnel attend to injured parade watchers after the truck drove into a crowd and injured at least 28 people. Photo / AP

The victims range in age from as young as 3 to adults in their 30s and 40s, Dr Elder said.

Among the injured was one New Orleans police officer. Mr Harrison said the officer, who was on duty, was undergoing tests to determine the extent of her injuries. She was in "good spirits".

As police and city officials assessed the accident scene, people streamed home as plastic bags that used to hold trinkets and discarded beads littered the ground.

New Orleans emergency personnel attend to an injured parade watcher. Photo / AP
New Orleans emergency personnel attend to an injured parade watcher. Photo / AP


New Orleans Fire Department and emergency personnel respond at the scene of the crash. Photo / AP
New Orleans Fire Department and emergency personnel respond at the scene of the crash. Photo / AP

Friday'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.

One woman at the scene told The New Orleans Advocate newspaper that a silver truck whisked closely by her as she was walking through the intersection. Carrie Kinsella said: "I felt a rush it was so fast."

Kourtney McKinnis, 20, told the Advocate that the driver of the truck seemed almost unaware of what he had just done. "He was just kind of out of it," she said.

Parade-goers walk by a wrecked car as New Orleans police work at the scene. Photo / AP
Parade-goers walk by a wrecked car as New Orleans police work at the scene. Photo / AP

- news.com.au

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