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Watch now: Four remain hospitalized after two killed, 20 injured in O Street crash on cruise night

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Two people are dead and 20 others injured after a crash on O Street late Sunday sent two cars into a crowd of bystanders gathered near the intersection at 52nd Street to watch the annual Memorial Day weekend cruise night.

Lincoln Police Capt. Max Hubka said two women, ages 20 and 22, were killed. Both were occupants of an east-facing white Toyota Corolla that was struck by a westbound black Ford Taurus, according to a police news release Monday morning.

The crash was reported at 10:46 p.m.

Four people remained in the hospital Monday morning.

Bryan Medical Center treated 10 people — seven at its west campus and three at its east, according to a press release. Of those, eight were treated and released, and two were admitted — one in critical condition, one in serious.

CHI Health St. Elizabeth also received 10 patients. Seven were treated and released. Three were admitted — two in good condition, and a third who was since discharged.

Police will release more information at a 3 p.m. news conference, but the department is asking for the public's help with its investigation. It's urging any witnesses to share their information, including video and photographs, by calling the non-emergency number at 402-441-6000.

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Hubka said the response was quickly declared a mass casualty event. Many of those injured were struck as they stood between the street and parking lot of the Barnes & Noble.

At 3 a.m., Hubka said investigators were still working to determine what led up to the crash, at least the second fatality crash involving onlookers during an O Street cruise event.

In July 2000, a 39-year-old woman, Connie McCullough, was killed as she watched Americruise cars pass near 35th and O streets when a non-participant car veered off O Street and hit her. She died shielding her children.

Taylor Arizola was across the street from Barnes and Noble, in the Verizon store’s parking lot, when he heard tires screeching behind him.

He turned around in time to see the Taurus skidding, but unable to stop, before hitting the passenger side of the Corolla. Both cars careened into the crowd.

“There were people running for their lives but getting rolled on by a car," he said. "I saw people’s kneecaps hanging out, people laying on the ground not being able to move.”

Arizola helped others flip the overturned Taurus back onto its wheels, he said.

Social media posts leading up to the crash showed people gathered at the intersection of 52nd and O streets as cars sped by.

Over the course of Sunday evening, videos posted on the social media app Snapchat showed people lining both sides of O Street near 52nd Street. In one video, a car attempts a burnout in front of a crowd of people.

Following the crash, people are seen helping victims as first responders reached the scene.

In one video posted on Twitter, smoke rolls from a vehicle in the background. In another, people crouch over a victim in front of a car.

Hubka said none of the officers assigned to monitor the cruise night witnessed the crash, but the first reached the scene within a minute.

He said all indications were that Sunday's cruise night event was "pretty controlled," with fewer people gathered to watch along O Street and fewer vehicles making the loop than on previous nights.

O Street is annually a hot spot for cruisers over Memorial Day weekend. This year, the Nebraska State Patrol and Lincoln Police said they would strengthen their forces Friday through Sunday, with a special focus on O Street between 17th and 84th streets.

Police said that some motorists attempt dangerous maneuvers to incite crowds gathered for cruise night, such as burnouts and speeding. Spectators often gather to watch from business parking lots along O Street.

Hubka couldn't say how many people were gathered on the north side of O Street in front of the Barnes & Noble at the time of Sunday's crash, but commended those on the scene for being helpful when they could and cooperative when requested to leave the area.

Reporters and photographers who first reached the scene observed friends and family members of those injured overcome by emotion in some cases.

"It's a devastating night," one woman said.

In recent years, crowds of more than 5,000 people have gathered along O Street for the informal parade of classic cars interspersed with regular traffic. Police have described how some attendees have rushed into O Street to pour water on the tires of cars doing burnouts to create larger smoke clouds.

There's no indication that spectators were in the street at the time of Sunday evening's crash.

O Street was closed between 48th and 56th streets for several hours.

This is a developing story. Stay with JournalStar.com for update.

Law enforcement will crack down on dangerous situations on Lincoln's O Street over Memorial Day weekend
Cruising crackdown in Lincoln nets nearly 200 citations and warnings, 10 arrests

Reach the writer at 402-473-7228 or emejia@journalstar.com

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News intern

Evelyn Mejia is a news intern and current sophomore at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. She covers breaking news and writes feature stories about her community.

K-12 education reporter

Zach Hammack, a 2018 UNL graduate, has always called Lincoln home. He previously worked as a copy editor at the Journal Star and was a reporting intern in 2017. Now, he covers students, teachers and schools as the newspaper’s K-12 reporter.

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