Police are searching for two men who carjacked an SUV and plowed into a group of children and adults selling fruit to raise money for their church, killing three siblings and critically injuring their mother and the carjacking victim. Another woman was hurt but is in stable condition.
The men carjacked a real estate agent at gunpoint Friday morning, forcing her into the backseat of her Toyota 4Runner. The SUV sped out of control about a mile from where the carjacking occurred, slamming into the children and adults manning the fruit stand, Philadelphia police said.
"Three innocent children had their lives taken," Philadelphia Homicide Capt. John Clark said of the victims, ages 7, 10 and 15.
The suspects 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."
More than $100,000 in rewards is being offered for the suspects' capture. Police also asked nearby businesses for surveillance video and pleaded with anyone with information to come forward.
Police said the suspects 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 34-year-old mother of the victims was in critical condition, police said. The identities of the family weren't immediately released.
The carjack victim, a 45-year-old real estate agent, was also critically injured, while a neighbor, a 65-year-old woman who was helping the family sell fruit, was in stable condition, police said.
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."
Deputy Mayor Everett Gillison described the mayor as heartbroken.
"The prayers of the city go out to this family," he said.