PHILADELPHIA – Two men forced a woman into the backseat of her sport utility vehicle at gunpoint, drove off but later lost control and plowed into a group of people on a corner near a fruit stand on Friday, police said. Three children, all siblings, were killed, and at least two other people were critically injured.
The woman was carjacked about a mile away from the scene of the accident in the Tioga section of north Philadelphia, where the car jumped a curb, Homicide Capt. James Clark said.
"Something obviously went horribly wrong at this intersection," he said. "The vehicle went out of control."
The victims who died were 7- and 10-year-old brothers and their 15-year-old sister. They had been selling fruit to raise money for their church.
Police said one of the boys was pronounced dead at the scene and the girl died at a hospital. The other boy died later.
Their mother was in critical condition.
The two men fled the scene on foot and are being sought.
Employees at Education Works, an educational nonprofit across the street from the site of the wreck, told The Philadelphia Inquirer that 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 at the nonprofit.
"I'm certified in first aid and CPR -- my first instinct was to go to them," she said. "But I couldn't help."
Officials said a $40,000 reward was being offered, $20,000 for each victim of what were classified as homicides. Police asked businesses with surveillance cameras in the area to provide footage and asked anyone with information in the case to come forward.
The deaths and injuries were a "terrible tragedy," Mayor Michael Nutter tweeted, calling for prayers for the injured and information on the carjackers.