ATLANTA – The Volvo 960 that plowed into the crowd at an Ellijay auto auction Feb. 16 was going about 50 miles an hour, leaving little or no time for people to get out of the way, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
"Bodies were flying five to six feet in the air," said Danny McCollum, a dealer who witnessed the incident. "I saw about 10 pairs of shoes -- it hit them so hard it knocked them out of their shoes.
"There was a lot of blood," he continued. "A couple guys got shoved up under the car that was on the auction block. One guy got taken through the wall.
"It ran into a crowd of 30 to 40 people. Luckily, a lot of people had already left. When I saw it happen I thought there would be 10 or 15 people dead."
More than two dozen people were injured in the 8 p.m. incident at the Blue Ridge Auto Auction. Wednesday morning, six remained in various hospitals, Gilmer County Fire Chief Tony Pritchett said.
One victim was in critical condition and undergoing surgery at Atlanta Medical Center. Five others were in stable condition, Pritchett said, according to the Constitution.
The Volvo driver "was shaken up and distraught" but did not require hospital treatment, Pritchett said.
"With the number of people in there, it could have been much worse," he said.
The car dealer who witnessed the incident said he heard tires squealing and turned to see the Volvo behind him. Apparently, the dealer said, the gas pedal was stuck and "he was holding the brakes."
"All of a sudden the brakes broke loose, and the car made a hard left turn and went into the building at 50 miles per hour."
The Georgia State Patrol and Gilmer County Sheriff's Office are investigating. No charges have been filed.
The driver of the 1995 Volvo was bringing the car to be auctioned.
"It's highly suspected there was a malfunction of some sort with the car," Sheriff Stacy Nicholson said at a late-morning press conference. "We do feel like it was a vehicle issue more than the driver."
Nicholson said there was no confirmation that the cause of the accident was a stuck accelerator. "Several witnesses made that comment at the scene ... that that's what it appeared to them to have been," Nicholson said.
"From some distance the car accelerated and never stopped until it came to its final resting place."
Nicholson estimated 100 people were at the auction at the time.
Twenty-seven people were hurt, according to Gordy Wright, spokesman for the State Patrol.
Four people were flown to Atlanta Medical Center and North Fulton Hospital, Wright said. One person was flown to Erlanger Hospital in Chattanooga and another was flown to Hamilton Medical Center in Dalton, he said.
Eight other people were taken to hospitals in the Gilmer County area, Wright said. Thirteen people were treated on the scene and did not require hospitalization, he said.
The Blue Ridge Auto Auction, which is owned by Ronnie Chester of Ellijay, was closed Wednesday. Chester is "very upset, very shaken," Nicholson said.
Chester asked that people pray for those injured in the incident, according to Nicholson, but did not want to be interviewed.
A note posted on the auction's Web site states:
"Thank you for your prayers and calls over the terrible accident last night. Please continue to pray for those injured."