STILLWATER, Okla. (AP) – Anthea Lewis had tears in her eyes on Sunday as she placed a child’s hat with an Oklahoma State University logo at the base of a makeshift memorial where a car crashed into a homecoming parade crowd a day earlier, killing four people including a 2-year-old boy and injuring dozens more.
One of the injured had been a baby sitter for Lewis, she said.
“I’ve lived here my whole life and this blows my mind,” she said. “This is something that doesn’t happen in Stillwater,” Lewis said of the college town reeling from what university president Burns Hargis called a “senseless and incomprehensible act.”
Police arrested 25-year-old Adacia Chambers of Stillwater after the car plowed into a crowd lining the route of the traditional OSU homecoming parade before the football team’s game with the University of Kansas. She was charged with driving under the influence and police await blood test results to determine if she was impaired by drugs or alcohol.
Tony Bui had a perfect vantage point of the scene along with his wife and two children. Bui said he could have been killed if the car hadn’t struck a motorcycle before it plowed into the crowd, which may have slowed its speed.
“I heard a boom, I thought it was a bomb,” he said. “I saw people flying in front of me.”
Konda Walker, an OSU graduate who was in Stillwater with her sister to celebrate homecoming, said she was only about 50 feet from the crash scene.
She said it took her a few seconds to process what had happened. There were bodies and injured people lying “all over the place,” Walker said.
“One woman was a crumpled mess on the road. They turned her over and started CPR. We realized she didn’t make it,” she said.
Three of the dead were identified as Nakita Prabhakar Nakal, 23, a student at the University of Central Oklahoma in Edmond, and Bonnie Jean Stone and Marvin Lyle Stone, both 65 and of Stillwater.
Forty-seven people were injured, including nine children 10-year-old or younger. Five adults were listed as critical on Sunday morning.
At the corner of the intersection where the suspect’s car came to a stop, a makeshift memorial continued to grow. By Sunday afternoon, there were balloons, flowers, stuffed teddy bears and candles with black and orange ribbons tied around them, for the school’s colors. A handmade sign read “It’s always darkest before dawn. Stay strong.”
Police said they were going through four to five dozen witness statements and may approach the district attorney Monday to discuss formal charges against Chambers.
The suspect’s father, Floyd Chambers of Oologah, told The Oklahoman newspaper he couldn’t believe his daughter was involved and said she was not an alcoholic. He described her as “timid” and said she had attended homecoming festivities Friday night with family but that her boyfriend had told him she was home by 10 p.m.
“This is just not who she is. They’re going to paint her into a horrible person but this is not (her),” Floyd Chambers told the paper.
A woman who answered a call to a phone number listed for Floyd Chambers told The Associated Press no one was available to talk.
It’s not the first tragedy to strike events connected to Oklahoma State sports programs. Ten people, including two OSU men’s basketball players, were killed in a 2001 plane crash while returning from a game in Colorado. And Oklahoma State women’s basketball coach Kurt Budke and assistant Miranda Serna were among four killed in a plane crash in Arkansas in 2011 while on a recruiting trip.