The inexplicable gesture of a 29-year-old driver who drove into passers-by in a central artery in Berlin on Wednesday caused the death of a teacher and injured several students who were on a school trip in the capital.
The vehicle, a metallic gray Renault Clio, crashed around 1 p.m. 10:30 (08:30 GMT) in the window of a perfumery shop, after hitting a group of pedestrians, not far from the places where a murderous attack on the ram truck.
The crowd was huge at this time of day in this commercial and tourist district located near the zoo west of the capital. The number is high: one teacher was killed and emergency services counted “more than a dozen wounded”, six of whom are “between life and death” and three others are “seriously injured”.
Among the injured are teenagers from the state of Hesse (west), who were on a school trip to Berlin, according to the authorities in this region. In addition to the deceased teacher, another of their teachers was seriously injured.
“So far, we have no tangible evidence of a political action,” Berlin police chief Barbara Slowik said late in the day.
Reports of the discovery of a claim in the vehicle have been rejected. However, writings containing remarks “about Turkey” were discovered in the car, according to a representative of the Berlin administration Iris Spranger.
“The investigation is underway and it is too early to speculate on the motives for the action,” a spokesman for the Interior Ministry said.
– In a window –
The driver bumped into passers-by “before continuing his run” for about 150 to 200 meters, and then finished it in the window, police said.
“I was sitting near the fountain and I heard a loud noise, then I saw a person flying in the air” after being hit, AFP told a witness, Frank Vittchen.
The driver “took off at high speed on the sidewalk, but he did not brake”, then “he returned to the road and fled”, he added.
Another witness, who refused to disclose his identity, described to AFP how he ran into “a group of students” aged “15 to 16 years” before driving at a red light and continuing their path “with a too high velocity”.
The driver was overpowered by passers-by before being arrested. He was hospitalized.
The Renault Clio, registered in Berlin, was visible on the spot, embedded in the shop window, the passenger door open, AFP journalists noted.
– Astonishment –
The facts aroused astonishment, as the Social Democrat mayor of Berlin, Franziska Giffey, said she was “deeply upset”, as was the German government.
They took place near the Memorial Church, a landmark monument in the western part of the German capital, located on one of Berlin’s busiest shopping streets, the Kurfürstendamm.
It is also there that an Islamist attack with a ram truck on December 19, 2016 killed 12 people at a Christmas market set up at the foot of the church.
Several car-ramming attacks have been carried out in recent years in Germany by speeders suffering from mental illness.
One of the most serious was committed in April 2018 in Münster (northwest). A man drove a minivan into a group of people gathered in front of a restaurant, killing five of them before shooting himself and killing.
In December 2020, a 51-year-old drunk driver suffering from psychosis killed five people, including a baby, and seriously injured 14 others as he drove into a pedestrian area in Trier (west), just before Christmas.
In Volksmarsen, a municipality in the Hesse region (west), a 30-year-old German also injured hundreds of people in 2020 by rushing into the crowd during a carnival parade.