Feb 26 (Reuters) - A 25-year-old man accused of plowing a pickup truck into a crowd of spectators at a Mardi Gras parade in New Orleans was arrested and charged with injuring 28 people in a crash that brought chaos to the city’s signature celebration, authorities said on Sunday.
New Orleans police booked Neilson Rizzuto after taking him into custody in “a highly intoxicated state” immediately after the accident on Saturday evening, the department said.
Rizzuto was charged with two charges of vehicular negligence injuring in the first degree, hit and run driving and the reckless operation of a motor vehicle, according to a statement.
No further information about Rizzuto was immediately available.
The truck driven by Rizzuto was traveling along the side of the street open to traffic along the parade route in the Mid-City neighborhood of New Orleans when it struck three other vehicles, including a dump truck. It then veered onto the median where a crowd of people stood watching the procession, police said.
Five people were being treated at hospital trauma centers and an investigation is ongoing, police said.
Police immediately apprehended the driver, who according to eyewitnesses interviewed by Fox television affiliate WVEU-TV appeared disheveled, glassy-eyed and under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
In a statement, Mayor Mitch Landrieu referred to the suspect as a “drunk driver.”
Video footage from the scene showed pandemonium immediately following the incident, but the Krewe of Endymion parade, the largest and most popular of numerous Mardi Gras season parades in New Orleans, continued with little or no interruption.
Of the 28 people injured, 21 were taken to local hospitals, including one police officer. Seven others who were hurt declined transport, Police Chief Michael Harrison told a news conference.
Local media reports said 12 people were initially listed as critically injured.
Harrison said police believed the motorist who was arrested was “highly intoxicated” and was being questioned at the police department’s drunken-driving office.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation in New Orleans said its agents were “coordinating with our federal, state and local law enforcement partners to determine whether a federal violation has occurred.”
The Endymion parade incident was not the only one to mar Mardi Gras festivities in New Orleans on Saturday. Earlier in the day, someone’s gun went off accidentally in a portable toilet along the route of another, smaller parade, leaving one person wounded, police said. (Reporting by Catherine Koppel, Steve Gorman and Frank McGurty in New York; Editing by Alan Crosby)