By Tim Gardner
A van plowed into a crowd of runners Thursday night at the start of The Bear race in Linville, North Carolina Highway Patrol troopers said.
A female runner was confirmed dead and three others were seriously hurt in the accident.
The event for runners and joggers is part of the Grandfather Mountain Highland Games in Avery County, one of the most famous events of its kind in the world.
The accident happened at about 6:50 p.m. on North Carolina Highway 105 (Linville Avenue) near the Blowing Rock Highway. Law enforcement on the scene closed Linville Avenue following the incident.
State troopers said the driver of the van was working the race, transporting people up and down the mountain.
According to reports, the van suddenly accelerated and hit other runners before also striking a Gator 4×4 vehicle. Reports have also indicated that the van’s driver was not trying to intentionally run into anyone or any other vehicles as there apparently was a mechanical error that caused the van to quickly accelerate when it should not have.
No further information nor the names of the deceased victim, those injured or the driver of the van have yet been released. High Country Press will publish more details about the accident as they are made publicly available.
The 5-mile Bear race, which stretches from downtown Linville to the Mile High Swinging Bridge at the top of Grandfather Mountain, was canceled after the accident. Around 900 people were signed up to run in the race.
But the rest of the Highland Games, which start today (Friday) and continue through Sunday, will go on as scheduled.
“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 said Thursday.