BERLIN – A 33-year-old German motorist drove a Volkswagen Polo into a barrier blocking off Berlin's Fan Mile — the main World Cup public viewing area in the capital — on Sunday, injuring 21 people, including one child, police said.
The child was seriously injured and was among 10 people taken to Berlin hospitals for treatment, while 11 others were treated at the scene by emergency services for lighter injuries, said Ehrhart Koerting, Berlin's top security official.
Koerting said police believed the driver intentionally broke through the barrier near the landmark Brandenburg Gate in an effort to seek attention.
Koerting said authorities had not yet determined a motive for the incident, adding it appeared to be a stunt by a "crazed man" seeking attention.
"It was not an attack," said Koerting.
The man, whose identity was not released, and a 55-year-old woman who was riding in the car remained in police detention and were being questioned by prosecutors, he said.
Koerting said police searched the vehicle for explosives because the man, a German citizen of Indian descent, said "kaboom" as he was being led away.
But Berlin state official Michael Donnermeyer said a thorough search of the vehicle had turned up no explosives and a concert scheduled for later Sunday would take place as planned.
"We were very lucky," Donnermeyer said.
The car went through a barrier blocking off the stretch of main road where World Cup games are shown on big screens to hundreds of thousands of fans and drove right up to the area's main stage, directly before Berlin's landmark Brandenburg Gate, before it was stopped.
Thorsten Mayer said he was walking with his girlfriend when the car went through the barrier.
"I would say it was going 40 to 50 kilometers (25 to 30 miles) per hour," Mayer said, adding that the car appeared to be heading straight for the barrier.
"I would say that it was deliberate," Mayer told The Associated Press.
Few people were on the Fan Mile on Sunday because there were no matches, Helig said.
During the games, as many as 700,000 people have packed the mile-long area stretching from the Brandenburg Gate through the Tiergarten park. It offers nine large TV screens flanked by vendors selling drinks, food and soccer jerseys and other souvenirs.
Berlin authorities announced Saturday that they planned to extend the area for Tuesday's upcoming semifinal match when Germany plays Italy, adding two more big screens and space to accommodate an additional 200,000 fans.