Described by a shocked bystander as a “tsunami of people in the air”, the horrific incident that left 13 late-night revellers lying injured in one of Praia da Rocha’s busiest “drinking streets” over the weekend is understood to have been caused by an unlicensed drunk-driver trying to evade police.
Alberto Afonso, 25, from São Tomé had twice been ordered to stop, say press reports, but kept on going at high speed forcing one of the policemen who tried to stop him to jump to safety.
He is then understood to have kept his foot on the accelerator, ploughing into a crowd of late-night revellers as they left the town’s Katedral disco in Avenida Tomás Cabreira.
Businessman Carlos Lopes witnessed the carnage, saying it looked like a tsunami of people, some of them “flying through the air, others being dragged by the car”.
“In the 35 years I have been in business in Praia da Rocha, I have never seen anything like this,” Lopes told tabloid Correio da Manhã.
A neighbouring bar worker named only as Vadim said the driver sped past with two people on his bonnet. “It was horrible,” he told the paper.
The panic and confusion was such that Afonso managed to keep on going and then apparently abandoned the car in order to try and escape on foot.
As panicked mothers are reported to have left their homes in pyjamas searching for their children among the victims, Afonso was hunted down by police.
He is due to be heard in court this morning as 11 of the injured have already been released from hospital, but three remain – one in Orthopedics and two under observation in casualty.
According to reports, Afonso’s blood alcohol level was 0.78g (0.5g being considered over the limit, but not sufficiently over to constitute a crime).
Lusa news agency quotes a PSP source saying Afonso’s alcohol count “did not seem enough” to have prompted such a rampage.
Before being held in police cells, Afonso was taken to hospital for drug testing – the results of which are now awaited.
“It could have been a lot worse,” Carlos Lopes explained. The horror took place as drinkers poured out of bars as they closed in the popular town that fills up with tourists during the summer.
The victims – six Portuguese, five Spanish and two Cape Verdeans – were all treated where they lay and then transferred to hospital within 40 minutes.
A total of 38 firemen and rescue workers attended the scene, all of them arriving within minutes.
As police continue to investigate, locals are calling for the area to be better protected so that nothing like this can ever happen again.
“Traffic should be cut off from the avenue, or there should be a fence”, said one.
Meantime, Carlos Lopes told CM: “This was attempted murder. That man should pay for what he did as he put the lives of many people in danger”.