3 critically hurt as car strikes marching band at Mardi Gras parade

GULF SHORES, Alabama — Twelve Alabama students were injured Tuesday when a Ford Expedition plowed into a marching band ahead of it in a Mardi Gras parade.

Three students are in critical condition but stable, Gulf Shores city spokesman Grant Brown said. The victims’ ages range from 12 to 17.

Brown said a 73-year-old man was driving the SUV, which was in the parade and accelerated before it hit the Gulf Shores High School marching band. It was not immediately clear why the driver accelerated, but authorities do not believe the crash was intentional.

“Every indication is that it was a tragic accident,” police Chief Ed Delmore said.

Six of those injured are middle school students; six are high school students, Baldwin County Public Schools said in a statement.

As the children were treated and rushed to ambulances, dented musical instruments and debris were scattered on the street. Earlier authorities said four people were in critical condition; they didn’t give a reason for the change in the total.

Brown said there were no signs that drugs or alcohol were involved. Delmore told reporters at a second news conference that the driver had given blood samples voluntarily.

The chief said there is at least one video showing the accident, and police also hope to retrieve information about the vehicle’s speed and movement from an computer on the SUV.

Several emergency agencies scrambled to the coastal community to help with what fire Battalion Chief Kevin Tolbert called a “mass trauma incident.”

Tolbert said the SUV ended up on top of some of the children.

A crisis counselor was at a local high school to comfort students and parents who witnessed the crash, said Angie Swiger, a member of the Baldwin County Board of Education.

“It’s going to be a very difficult day,” she said. “It is a tight-knit community. We just ask for everyone’s thoughts and prayers.”

The vehicle was representing the Military Officers Association of America. The organization said it was still learning the facts.

“We’re concerned about those who have been injured and our hearts and prayers go out to them and their families as they deal with this unfortunate mishap,” the organization said.

Brown said the band was at the head of the parade and the SUV was behind the 100 or so members. The band marched onto a highway to begin the parade and the truck followed.

“And the something went terribly wrong,” Brown said.

The vehicle was part of the American Legion honor guard, Brown added.