Crash at Massachusetts auto auction, 3 dead

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Three people died at a Massachusetts auto auction Wednesday after an accidental crash.

Middlesex District Attorney Marian Ryan told reporters at an afternoon press conference that one man and two women were killed and nine others were hospitalized after an accident at Lynnway Auto Auction Inc. in Billerica, Mass., about 20 miles northwest of Boston.

Ryan said an employee, identified as a 70-year-old man, was driving a 2006 Jeep Grand Cherokee in one of the auction lanes when it suddenly accelerated to “a light speed,” striking numerous people before crashing through a wall. The crash occurred around 10:15 a.m. local time.

In a statement, Massachusetts State Police said the preliminary investigation revealed no evidence that the crash was intentional, despite its unclear cause.

Meghan Kelly, a spokeswoman for the Middlesex District Attorney’s Office, told Automotive News in an email that one victim is being treated for life-threatening injuries. The others have “serious injuries,” she said.

Four victims were being treated at nearby Lahey Hospital and Medical Center in Burlington, Mass., a hospital spokesman told Automotive News. The others were transported to other local hospitals.

Ryan said there were “several hundred” attendees at Lynnway, which was holding its weekly dealer auction at the time of the accident. On its website, Lynnway calls itself the largest auto auction in New England.

A spokesman for the Massachusetts State Police declined to comment beyond the statements it released. The Billerica Police Department and Lynnway could not be reached for comment.

“We are very saddened by today’s events at the auction. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the individuals and families affected,” Lynnway said in a post on its Facebook page.

‘Avoided the cars

A witness told WCVB-TV in Massachusetts that a Jeep Cherokee suddenly accelerated in one of the auction lanes and hit several people before crashing through the building.

The driver “avoided the cars and hit the people who were standing between the cars,” Woody Tuttle, an employee at Lynnway, told the station. “Three men were on the ground being tended to. There was a woman who was crying, but she was standing up, and I saw two men on the ground who appeared to be dead.”

Another witness told WCVB that the vehicle was travelling at speeds of 40 mph.

“We heard a bang or an explosion. It was almost like a bomb,” Randy Miller, an auction attendee, told the station. “The whole place just went silent. There were people just lying on the ground — a horrific, crazy, tragic situation.”

Lynnway is a member of the National Auto Auction Association, according to its website. Voicemails placed to NAAA President Jerry Hinton and CEO Frank Hackett were not immediately returned.