AVERY COUNTY, N.C. (QUEEN CITY NEWS) — A Greensboro woman is dead, and at least five people have been severely injured, after a vehicle plowed into the starting area of the Grandfather Mountain Highland Games’ footrace in the area of Highway 105 and 221 in Linville, North Carolina.
Julie Holderness was among the crowd. She and her husband have a home in the area and came out to watch the race, the victim’s family told sister station WGHP.
By 6:30 p.m., runners were starting to file into place even though the road was not yet closed.
As the clock ticked down, 15 minutes left until the starting gun, Holderness stepped out to speak with someone — just as a vehicle drove into the crowd.
The games’ organization described it as “an accident involving a vehicle and multiple pedestrians.”
A photo from someone who was attending the race shows the vehicle allegedly involved: a white van with Appalachian State University branding on the driver’s side door.
The area was hosting a five-mile race to the top of Grandfather Mountain called ‘The Bear.’ Officials told Queen City News that the crash was an accident and there was no malicious intent nor terroristic intentions behind it.
Avery County Sheriff Mike Henley said that the runners gathered around 6:30 p.m., standing on the shoulder ahead of the run when someone driving a van associated with the event accidentally hit the accelerator and drove into the crowd.
At least 200 runners were in attendance when the accident occurred.
Multiple ambulances and a rescue unit from several surrounding counties responded to the scene. Avery County EMS said of those injured, several had severe injuries and broken bones.
At least one EMS worker was also injured. All of those with injuries were transported to area hospitals.
Grandfather Mountain Highland Games released a statement on Facebook Thursday evening, saying they canceled the race after the accident.
“On behalf of myself and the entire Grandfather Mountain Highland Games organization and family, we are deeply saddened by tonight’s devastating event and extend our condolences to those affected.”Grandfather Mountain Highland Games President Steve Quillin
The Bear is held annually at the start of the games. Event organizers say the activities set for Friday through Sunday will go on as planned.
North Carolina State Highway Patrol is taking over the investigation into the accident.