Authorities have identified the three victims killed after a vehicle plowed into a crowd and crashed through a wall at an auto auction site Wednesday morning in Billerica, Massachusetts.
Brenda Lopez, 48, and Pantaleon Santos, 49, both of Rhode Island, died at the scene, and 36-year-old Leezandra Aponte of Lowell, Massachusetts, was pronounced dead at Lahey Hospital in Burlington, according to Middlesex County District Attorney Marian Ryan.
Police retured to Lynnway Auto Auction on Charter Way Thursday to continue investigating whether the accident was caused by operator error, a medical issue or a mechanical problem.
"The information we have right now suggests that this was a tragic accident," Ryan said on Wednesday.
State police said there is no indication that it was an intentional or terrorist act.
Seven men and one woman were treated and released from area hospitals, but a 55-year-old man is still hospitalized with serious injuries.
Lynnway Auto Auction has announced plans to raise funds for the victims' families.
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"Our Lynnway community is a close group," auction president Jim Lamb said in a statement. "Many of the auto dealers who attend our weekly auctions have done so for years and all of us feel the impact of this tragedy. While investigators work to understand what happened and why, we intend to support those impacted by donating a portion of the proceeds from yesterday's auction and next Wednesday's auction to those families. Details will be forthcoming."
Lamb added that the auction will be installing new barriers, called "bollards," to keep vehicles in their lanes, adding that the organization is dedicated to keeping people safe.
The victims who were killed include a man and two women, Ryan said. She said nine others suffered injuries, one of them life-threatening; however, a Lahey Hospital doctor said two people were in critical condition.
As of Thursday morning, there were three survivors remaining at the Lahey Clinic, with two in critical condition and one stable. Lahey Clinic said as of 1:20 p.m. two people were still critical, but another patient had been treated and released.
Lowell General Hospital confirms one patient from the Billerica crash was still there Thursday morning after treating and releasing seven other patients Wednesday. The remaining patient's condition is unknown.
The accident occurred at 10:13 a.m. at the Lynnway Auto Auction on Charter Way. There were 1,500 people in the building when the vehicle crashed.
Although the names of the deceased victims have not been released by authorities, the brother of Leezandra Aponte of Lowell said his sister was killed in the car auction crash.
Ryan said an auction was going on at the time of accident, just like every Wednesday. She said vehicles, which are only driven by employees in order to prevent accidents, are moved through the building during the day so people can bid on them. She said a 2006 Jeep Grand Cherokee was inside the auction site and someone was moving it when they lost control and hit a wall.
She said the driver was an older male, in his seventies, and that he was an employee at the auction site.
Although the cars generally don't travel more than five miles per hour, witnesses tell us the Jeep may have been going as fast as 20 miles per hour before it fatally struck three people standing near the safe lane.
Lynnway Auto Auction President Jim Lamb expressed his company's shock and sadness through a statement.
"We are stunned at the loss of life and serious injuries that occurred to our patrons. We are heartbroken that this accident occurred at our premises with a vehicle driven by one of our drivers," Lamb said.
Lamb said that the driver, who has not been named, was very distraught and would not be driving cars at the auction until the investigation was complete.
Investigators said they don't know yet exactly what caused the driver to accelerate. The driver was not hospitalized.