Van strikes people in Shanghai crash police say was accident

China Shanghai Crash_310997

EDS NOTE: GRAPHIC CONTENT In this image taken from cellphone video provided to the Associated Press, rescuers attend to victims after a minivan carrying gas tanks plowed into pedestrians along a street in Shanghai, Friday, Feb. 2, 2018. A minivan plowed into pedestrians on a sidewalk in downtown Shanghai on Friday, sending more than a […]

SHANGHAI (AP) – A driver who was smoking while transporting gas tanks lost control of his minivan and plowed into pedestrians in downtown Shanghai on Friday, sending 18 people to hospitals for treatment, local authorities reported.

The crash was caused by a 40-year old man surnamed Chen who accidentally ignited the gas he was transporting, according to Shanghai police, who appeared to dismiss fear the crash could have been an attack in the heart of the Chinese financial hub.

Chen and two other people suffered serious injuries in the crash. The driver works for a Shanghai metals company and had no criminal record but was now under suspicion for transporting dangerous materials, the Shanghai police said.

The minivan, registered in the southern province of Jiangxi, veered onto a sidewalk and burst into flames around 9 a.m. near People’s Park, authorities said.

It occurred just as British Prime Minister Theresa May was speaking at a business event in the city.

Videos on social media showed injured people lying on the pavement next to a Starbucks cafe and firefighters trying to put out a blaze inside the van.

Local media reported the vehicle was carrying six people and several tanks of gas. The status of the passengers wasn’t clear.

Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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