‘It was horrible’: witnesses recall moment van ploughed into pedestrians in Shanghai

People rushed to help after driver lost control of van outside Starbucks

PUBLISHED : Friday, 02 February, 2018, 10:55pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 03 February, 2018, 9:43am

Liu Dongbiao shudders as he recalls the moment he was walking along West Nanjing Road in Shanghai on Friday morning and saw a minivan mount the pavement and plough into the crowd.

“It was horrible,” said Liu, who is in his early 60s, two hours after the crash. 

“The van was already on fire before it crashed,” he said. “I saw smoke billowing from the van before it hit the pedestrians.”

Eighteen people were injured – including the driver who is in critical condition in hospital – when the minivan crashed into a fence in front of a Starbucks and slammed into pedestrians at about 9am. 

The 40-year-old driver, surnamed Chen, had been smoking a cigarette while he was driving and had no passengers, Shanghai police said in a statement. He is believed to have been illegally transporting seven gas cylinders. 

“Some of the pedestrians, including me, rushed over to help rescue people,” Liu said. “I can’t believe 18 people were injured – it’s too many, it’s just awful.”

The driver was making a U-turn at the intersection of West Nanjing Road and Xinchang Road in Huangpu district when he lost control and mounted the pavement, according to Liu and another witness, Xu Xin. 

Fire engines and ambulances arrived on the scene minutes after the accident, they said. 

Xu, in his late 20s, was jogging when he saw the minivan knocking people down. 

“I guess the driver lost control,” Xu said. “The van was totally out of control when it crashed into the pedestrians.”

He added that he saw the driver lose consciousness after the crash and there were a lot of people on the pavement injured and in shock. 

The injured were taken to the nearby Shanghai Changzheng Hospital. Nine people were still being treated there on Friday night with one person, the driver, in critical condition, police said. 

Zhu Rongming was waiting at the hospital as his daughter-in-law Liu Jianying, 35, was being treated.  

“The doctors told me that my daughter-in-law has some fractures but her life isn’t in danger,” Zhu said. “She was on the way to her office when it happened. It’s just unfortunate she was in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

The incident happened close to the gate 7 entrance to Shanghai People’s Park and near to several municipal government buildings.