Two men carjacked a woman at gunpoint but soon sped out of control, killing three children Friday as they plowed into a group selling fruit to raise money for their church, Philadelphia police said.
Two women, including the mother of the three siblings killed, were critically injured.
“Three innocent children had their lives taken,” Philadelphia Homicide Capt. John Clark said of the victims, ages 7, 10 and 15.
The victims were struck late Friday morning about a mile from where the carjacking occurred. Police were looking for the suspects, who fled on foot.
“There are no words to describe how I feel right now,” said police commissioner Charles Ramsey, “but we do need to find these two guys.”
Police said they may have blown a tire as they turned a corner at high speed. The car ended up in a wooded area, its front end smashed against a stand of trees.
“Something obviously went horribly wrong,” Clark said.
The victims included a 15-year-old girl and her younger brothers. Their mother, 34, was in extremely critical condition, police said. Their identities were not immediately released.
A neighbor helping the family sell fruit was also struck. The 65-year-old woman was in stable condition, police said.
The carjack victim, a 45-year-old real estate agent who was forced into the backseat of her Toyota 4Runner, was also critically injured.
Witness Renee Charleston saw a car streaking through the intersection, then noticed children on the ground.
“Nobody was moving,” she told television station WPVI.
Employees at Education Works, an educational nonprofit across the street from the wreck, told The Philadelphia Inquirer they ran to try to help the victims. One boy had no pulse and another’s was barely there, said Karen Payne, who runs a summer camp there.
“I’m certified in first aid and CPR – my first instinct was to go to them,” she said. “But I couldn’t help.”
More than $100,000 in rewards were being offered for the suspects’ capture. Police asked nearby businesses for surveillance video and pleaded with anyone with information to come forward.
Deputy Mayor Everett Gillison described the mayor as heartbroken.
“The prayers of the city go out to this family,” he said.