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Times Square car rampage: Belfast woman tells of horror in the heart of New York

By Ivan Little

A Belfast native has spoken of her shock as an out-of-control car driven by a suspected drunk driver ploughed into pedestrians in New York's Times Square.

An 18-year-old woman died after the vehicle mounted the pavement before hitting security bollards at the tourist magnet.

Richard Rojas (26), a US Navy veteran with a history of driving while intoxicated, was arrested and is being tested for alcohol, the New York Police Department (NYPD) said.

Niamh Mullan, who is from Belfast, was working on the 22nd floor of a building in Times Square when she heard the commotion below.

She told the Belfast Telegraph of her horror as she witnessed events unfolding from her office desk.

The 26-year-old had just returned to the building 10 minutes before the speeding car caused carnage.

"We heard a bang and looked out to see the car crashed just outside our building," she said.

"There was a body beside it but I don't know who that was."

Niamh added that a security announcement warned staff in her office they would be in lockdown for "some time".

"Managers conducted a headcount and thankfully none of my colleagues was injured," she said.

Niamh (inset), a former pupil at Victoria College, has only been in New York for 10 weeks.

"I was hoping that nothing like this would happen," she said.

"It's a really scary time, but the first indications we received were that this was not a terrorist-related incident."

The NYPD later said Rojas was arrested and was being tested for alcohol.

A member of the public told how he ran after Rojas, wrestled him to the ground and held him until police arrived.

The passer-by, who gave his name as Landry, said he had seen the man running away from the scene of the incident and decided to chase after him.

"We just grabbed him until the police came," he said.

"When he came out of the car, he started running towards 45th Street.

"A guy grabbed him, and then I was there."

Asked if the man had said anything, he said: "He was just screaming. Like... Ahhhh."

Landry said he did not consider himself a hero.

"What I can say is that if you are there and you are able to see somebody, then you have to give a hand and try to help," he added.

The dead woman's 13-year-old sister is among the injured, the NYPD said.

Pictures from the scene yesterday showed a badly-damaged red vehicle emitting smoke and resting on two wheels and bollards on the corner of 45 Street and Broadway in the heart of Manhattan.

More than 300,000 people, many of them tourists, pass through Times Square every day.

New York mayor Bill de Blasio (left) said: "Based on the information we have at this moment, there is no indication that this was an act of terrorism.

"This is a tough day for New York City, but I want to thank our first responders who got here so quickly.

"We feel deeply for those injured and particularly for the family of the young woman who was lost. Our prayers are with all of them."

The New York Fire Department said that four people were in a critical condition, three were seriously hurt and 15 were "less serious".

President Donald Trump "has been made aware of the situation in Times Square and will continue to receive updates", his spokesman Sean Spicer said.

Belfast Telegraph

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