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On The Scene

Dan Lothian: Police have conflicting reports

CNN correspondent Dan Lothian

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Those seeking information about victims in the Santa Monica Farmers' Market accident may call the Santa Monica Police Department Hotline: 310-458-8491.

(CNN) -- An elderly man driving a mid-size car plowed through a crowded farmers' market in Santa Monica, California, Wednesday, killing eight people, including a 3-year-old girl, and injuring 55, authorities said. (Full story)

CNN Anchor Anderson Cooper discussed the tragedy with CNN Correspondent Dan Lothian:

COOPER: Dan, what can you tell us?

LOTHIAN: Well, obviously as you can see here it's quite a chaotic scene. A lot of reporters have gathered around here as the chief has been giving the latest information. Certainly, this has been a tragic incident that happened in the city of Santa Monica.

This farmers' market which on Wednesdays between 9 a.m. and 2 p.m. is crowded with people going to buy fruits and vegetables, right before it wrapped up was when that car came plowing through that street which is closed to traffic.

One witness describing it as almost like a bowling alley. He saw people bouncing off the hood and off the roof of that car. The latest count that we've gotten is that eight people are confirmed dead. One of them, a 2-year-old child. Fifteen people are in critical condition.

This obviously you can just imagine what it has done to the witnesses who saw this unfolding. According to authorities, at least 100 people were there when it happened, they plan to talk to those people to interview those people as they try to figure out whether this was intentional or whether it was an accident.

Now, the person who was driving the car, we're told by authorities, is a man who was about 80 years old. He did sustain some injuries, although they're not life threatening injuries. He is getting some medical attention.

But also, authorities plan to interview [him] to find out if perhaps there was some medical problem that occurred that caused him to plow into these people or whether it was intentional.

COOPER: I should point out that as the chief of police in Santa Monica pointed out this man is not under arrest at this point. As you said, Dan, they want to interview him, try to ascertain what happened.

Dan, I want to ask you, what are you hearing from witnesses on the scene? I ask this question because I read an account from a person named Joe Chrisman, who was described by CNN as an eyewitness to the accident, and he said this about the driver. I'm going to read it to you directly.

He said, quote, "He looked very, very confused. I think he was just mentally out of touch. He seemed very confused when he stepped out of the car. He definitely shouldn't have been behind the wheel. He was definitely not quite with it."

Are you hearing similar things on the scene?

LOTHIAN: Well, once again, I think I want to reiterate what the police chief said and that is they're hearing conflicting information. Some people, witness accounts are that the man appeared to be confused. He appeared to be out of it. Appeared to be sort of going forward in a gaze.

Others said that he appeared to be driving intentionally into the crowd of people.

Yet another witness said that he couldn't really tell what his face looked like because the windshield was cracked. Apparently this happened after he had run into a number of people before he got to that witness.

So certainly at this point, it is so difficult for authorities to come to any particular conclusion based on what the witnesses are telling them, because there is conflicting information.

But what we do know is that it was an elderly man, so that would probably lean towards that conclusion that maybe something did go wrong medically. He is being checked out, as the chief said. They have taken some blood tests. But right now, it's too early for them to determine whether this was an accident or whether he intentionally drove into the crowd.

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