A man who appeared intoxicated has driven his car the wrong way up a Times Square street and ploughed into pedestrians on the sidewalk, killing one and injuring about 20 others, authorities and witnesses said. The driver was taken into custody and being tested for alcohol.
New York City mayor Bill De Blasio said the male driver was a former member of the armed forces and a US citizen.
Pandemonium erupted on Thursday when the vehicle barrelled through the prime tourist location and came to rest with two of its wheels in the air. The car leaned on a lamppost and steel barriers intended to block vehicles from getting onto the sidewalk.
"He's just mowing down people," said Asa Lowe, of Brooklyn, who was standing outside a store when he heard screaming. "He didn't stop. He just kept going."
The crash happened at midday on a hot, clear day that brought large crowds of people into the streets to enjoy the good weather. Video posted online showed steam or smoke pouring from the car for a few moments after it stopped moving.
After the car struck a barricade and stopped, the driver climbed out of his vehicle, Lowe said.
A bystander has captured scenes of chaos after a car struck pedestrians in New York's busy Times Square. (Twitter/@gb__)
"He just started running until people tackled him down," Lowe said. "Citizens just reacted."
The 26-year-old driver from the Bronx was taken into custody and was undergoing tests for alcohol, a law enforcement official told The Associated Press. The man has a history of driving while intoxicated, according to the law enforcement official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation was ongoing.
The crash killed one person and injured 19 others, the Fire Department of New York confirmed.
Police do not suspect a link to terrorism, but the bomb squad has responded as a precaution to check the vehicle.
Tourists Patrick and Kelly Graves of Wisconsin, were waiting to get on a tour bus when they heard the crash.
Kelly Graves said she feared the worst, maybe a bomb, as "chaos" erupted and people began running.
The White House said President Donald Trump has been "made aware" of the situation in Times Square and will continue to receive updates as the situation unfolds. Press secretary Sean Spicer tweeted that Trump was briefed before New York authorities confirmed the death.
The sidewalks in many parts of Times Square and surrounding blocks are lined with metal posts designed to prevent cars from getting onto the sidewalks and other public areas.
That network of barricades, though, is far from a complete defence. There are many areas where vehicles could be driven onto packed sidewalks or public plazas.
Times Square also has a heavy police presence at all hours of the day and night.