Nine dead in Seoul after car plows into pedestrians

Posted on : 2024-07-02 17:23 KST Modified on : 2024-07-02 18:06 KST
Police are still investigating the exact circumstances that led to the deadly crash after ruling out drunken driving
Debris is scattered across a sidewalk near City Hall Station in Seoul after a car crashed through the barricade, killing at least nine, on July 1, 2024. (Yonhap)
Debris is scattered across a sidewalk near City Hall Station in Seoul after a car crashed through the barricade, killing at least nine, on July 1, 2024. (Yonhap)

A major traffic accident occurred in central Seoul on Monday night when a car sped onto a sidewalk, killing nine people and leaving four injured.

The road was plunged into chaos after the crash as passersby rushed in and attempted CPR on the victims struck by the vehicle. The driver of the car in question, a man in his 60s, claimed that it had accelerated on its own, although witnesses to the accident said this seemed unlikely.

For now, it appears that a police investigation will be necessary to determine the exact cause of the crash.

The accident occurred at 9:27 pm Monday on an eight-lane road near Exit 12 of City Hall Station on Line 2 of the Seoul Metro. Many people were present on the sidewalk at the time, while traffic on the road was fairly heavy.

A black Genesis driven by a 68-year-old man reportedly exited a hotel near the station and swerved into oncoming traffic, successively colliding with a BMW and Sonata before speeding through a crosswalk and striking pedestrians who were waiting to cross. 

“As of now, what we have determined about the accident is that [the vehicle] struck two other cars before plowing onto a sidewalk,” explained Kim Chun-su, the director of the Jungbu Fire Station’s firefighting administration department, in a briefing delivered at 11:40 that evening.

The safety barrier between the sidewalk and the road was left severely mangled and damaged after the car rammed into it. The driver and his wife, who was in the passenger seat, were transported to a local hospital after complaining of chest pains.

Footage from the dash cam of a car in the vicinity captures the car that crashed as it cuts across lanes on a major road near Seoul’s City Hall Station on July 1, 2024. (courtesy of a reader/Yonhap)
Footage from the dash cam of a car in the vicinity captures the car that crashed as it cuts across lanes on a major road near Seoul’s City Hall Station on July 1, 2024. (courtesy of a reader/Yonhap)

Witnesses described the scene as one of “horrific chaos.”

“I heard what sounded like a gas tank exploding and thought a war had broken out,” said a witness in their 60s identified by the surname Kim.

“It was loud enough that you could hear it from Seoul Station. I ran over to see if I could do anything to help, and there were around 10 people already lying there on the road and sidewalk in front of the convenience store,” they recalled.

Another witness said, “The noise from the accident was so loud that I came out to look, and I could see there were people on the ground and other people giving CPR.”

The six victims pronounced dead at the scene were transported to a makeshift mortuary nearby before finally being taken to the funeral hall at Yeongdeungpo Hospital. Three others were taken to the National Medical Center and Severance Hospital in a state of cardiac arrest before eventually succumbing to their injuries.

The driver of the car responsible for the accident had not been drinking at the time. As of yet, it has not been determined whether he may have taken drugs or fallen asleep at the wheel.

The driver reportedly told police that the car had accelerated suddenly on its own.

But a witness in their 50s, identified by the surname Lee, told the Hankyoreh that a sudden acceleration did not appear likely in light of the route traveled by the vehicle.

“The car struck several people and kept traveling in the direction of Seoul Station before coming to a stop,” they explained.

Police said they had not questioned the driver yet because of his injuries.

“We will conduct a swift and rigorous investigation of CCTV and dash cam footage to determine the circumstances and cause of the incident,” they said.

Reporters with various outlets stand outside the Yeongdeungpo Hospital’s mortuary in the early hours of July 2, 2024, where those killed in the crash were transported. (Yonhap)
Reporters with various outlets stand outside the Yeongdeungpo Hospital’s mortuary in the early hours of July 2, 2024, where those killed in the crash were transported. (Yonhap)

Family members of the victims were frantic as they arrived around 12:30 am at the funeral hall of Yeongdeungpo Hospital, where the bodies of those killed were taken. Most of them were dressed in T-shirts, suggesting they had left home in a hurry after being contacted.

One family member who arrived at the funeral hall in a state of confusion slumped against the wall and wept after hearing about the circumstances of the accident at the hall’s counseling office.

By Kim Ga-yoon, staff reporter; Yoon Yeon-jeong, staff reporter; Lee Ji-hye, staff reporter; Goh Gyoung-ju, staff reporter

Please direct questions or comments to [english@hani.co.kr]

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