“Since we currently cannot say whether it was a disease-initiated accident or an intentional act, we as the Berlin police will not yet speak of a perpetrator,” said police spokeswoman Anja Dierschke. The driver has been identified only as a 29-year-old German Armenian man living in Berlin. Local authorities later said evidence suggested he could be mentally ill.
The person killed was a teacher, traveling with a group of students from the west-central German state of Hessen, Berlin’s Interior Senator Iris Spranger told public broadcaster ZDF. Public broadcaster ARD reported that the students were a visiting 10th-grade class with a female teacher.
Dierschke added that the injured belonged to a group traveling together. “Part of this group was severely injured, some had light injuries, one person belonging to this group died from their injuries,” she said.
Police spokesman Thilo Cablitz also told German television that “the driver was initially detained by pedestrians and subsequently arrested by an officer on the ground.”
Kevin Bartke, a fire service spokesperson at the scene, said that “in total there are five life-threatening injuries and three severely injured, as well as an indefinite number of slightly injured.” He also confirmed that the driver received medical treatment but couldn’t say anything about the severity of his injuries.
On Twitter, actor John Barrowman, who was at the scene, wrote that the situation was “pretty horrific.” Barrowman later uploaded videos that showed emergency services personnel, including some in helicopters, arriving to help people. More than 100 emergency responders arrived to the site, Reuters reported. Mental health workers were on-site to help bystanders and responders, police said. “There’s a lot of police, a dead body in the middle of the road,” Barrowman said.
Berlin Mayor Franziska Giffey said affected students who were not injured would be looked after by Berlin school psychologists until their parents arrived. A service is set to be held Thursday night at a local church, the mayor said.
The corner where Wednesday’s incident unfolded is across from the Breitscheidplatz, a major public plaza, which was targeted by a Tunisian man who killed at least 12 people and wounded dozens more when he drove a black truck through crowds of visitors to one of the city’s most famous Christmas markets in 2016. The attack was claimed by the Islamic State group.
For Berlin’s mayor, Wednesday’s incident evoked memories of the Christmas attack more than five years ago.
“It’s a situation where you think, ‘For God’s sake, not again!’ Whether the place was coincidental or whether it was deliberately chosen, those are all things we do not know yet,” she told the newspaper Spiegel.
Hassan reported from London. Sammy Westfall and Amy Cheng contributed to this report.