Car Drives into Crowd at Gulf Shores Parade

UPDATE (8:45 a.m. 3/1/17) – Three middle school students remain hospitalized after a sport-utility vehicle plowed into a marching band during a Mardi Gras parade on the Alabama coast.

Gulf Shores city spokesman Grant Brown says nine other band members have been released from hospitals since the crash.

The young musicians were injured Tuesday when an SUV driven by a 73-year-old man in the parade accelerated quickly and struck members of the Gulf Shores High School band from behind.

Sources identified the driver to News Five as 73-year-old Larry Rathbun of Fairhope.  He was a part of the parade representing MOAA, the Military Officers Association of America.

Police say Rathbun is cooperating, and there’s no indication of drugs or alcohol. Authorities say the crash appears to be accidental, and no charges were filed.


UPDATE (9:30 p.m.) – All eight students treated at South Baldwin Regional Medical Center after the Mardi Gras tragedy in Gulf Shores have been released.

Students remain hospitalized at Sacred Heart in Pensacola and USA Medical Center in Mobile, according to Baldwin County Superintendent Eddie Tyler.

Sources identified the driver to News Five as 73-year-old Larry Rathbun of Fairhope. He was a part of the parade representing MOAA, the Military Officers Association of America.


UPDATE (3:05 p.m.) – According to Gulf Shores officials, the number of students in critical condition has fallen to three. Earlier in the afternoon, a total of four students were listed in critical.

During a press conference at 3 p.m., city officials said that Alabama Highway 59 will be reopening shortly.

Law enforcements officials say this incident was “an accident” and the driver had no criminal intent. They did not release the name of the driver in the crash.

Officials from the Baldwin County School System says they will have counselors on campus at Gulf Shores High School this week for students to talk with about the crash.


UPDATE (12:55 p.m.) – The Baldwin County School System confirms that 12 students from Gulf Shores were involved in the crash. Six of the students were in middle school and the other six students were in high school.

The School System issued the following statement:

We are yielding to the Gulf Shores Police Department regarding details that are available concerning this unthinkable incident. Right now our thoughts and prayers are with the Gulf Shores High School family. We greatly appreciate everyone’s thoughts and prayers, especially for those who have been injured and their families. I want to thank all the EMS and law enforcement professionals who responded and are still assisting families. I especially want to thank the Gulf Shores Police Department and Fire/EMS. We will continue to provide updates as information becomes available.”


UPDATE (12:20 p.m.) – News Five has obtained new information about the vehicle and driver involved in the crash. The vehicle was representing the Military Officers Association of America.

Col. Jonathan Withington at the MOAA national headquarters confirms that a vehicle representing their Baldwin County chapter was involved in the crash. The identity of the driver is still unknown.

One victim was tranported by helicopter from South Baldwin Medical Center to USA Medical Center in Mobile.

New video from the Gulf Shores Fire Department shows the band and vehicle before the crash.


UPDATE (11:50 a.m.) – The city of Gulf Shores held a press conference Tuesday morning to update the crash at the Mardi Gras parade.

According to a city spokesperson, a late model SUV driven by a 73-year-old male from Fairhope struck the Gulf Shores Marching Band at the start of the parade.

12 bandmembers were struck by the SUV and four of the victims are in critical condition.

It is unknown whether alcohol or drugs played a factor, but authorities do not expect criminal intent. The driver and the vehicle are in police custody. Charges could be filed against the driver, but at this time, police have not made that determination.

The victims range in age from 12 to 17. Nine patients were transported to South Baldwin Medical Center in Foley, two were transported to Sacred Heart Hospital in Pensacola and one other victim was transported to Baptist Hospital in northwest Florida.

City officials tell News Five that the vehicle ended up on top of several students. All injuries are trauma related according to emergency officials.

The FBI did reach out to Gulf Shores officials to help in the investigation. The City turned down the offer because they do not believe the driver had criminal intent.

Alabama Highway 59 remains closed Tuesday afternoon.

The Orange Beach Parade is still scheduled to roll at 2 p.m. down Perdido Beach Blvd.

The city of Gulf Shores will hold another press conference at 3 p.m. Tuesday.


GULF SHORES, Ala. (WKRG) – A city spokesperson says there were eleven band members injured after a vehicle plowed into the Gulf Shores High Marching Band. Three of the band members are in critical condition.

Video of the scene shows multiple ambulances with several patients on stretchers. The extent of the injuries is unknown at this time.

Several victims were transported to South Baldwin Regional Medical Center in Foley.

Emergency crews on hand at South Baldwin Regional Medical Center in Foley.
Emergency crews on hand at South Baldwin Regional Medical Center in Foley.

“A teenage band has just started to march down the parade route when they were struck from behind. The vehicle was a part of the parade,” says Grant Brown, a spokesperson for the city of Gulf Shores.

The vehicle was a part of the Gulf Shores Parade and was behind the band in the parade route. Sources tell News Five that the driver was an elderly man.

It is unknown at this time whether the crash was an accident or had criminal intent. News Five is hoping to learn more at the city of Gulf Shores press conference at 11:45 a.m. CST.

Portions of Highway 59 and surrounding roads are closed at this time. First responders are being escorted up and down Highway 59 to transport victims from the crash.

City officials are on the scene of the crash. The scene in Gulf Shores has turned from carnival revelry to an emergency response.

The Gulf Shores Parade is officially canceled and the parade route is closed at this time.

City officials are asking anyone with cell phone video of the crash to not post the video to social media, but please email to bcowan@gulfshoresal.gov.

Watch News 5 live coverage of Mardi Gras for the latest. You can also watch live on the WKRG Facebook page.

The city of Gulf Shores issued the following statement on their Facebook page Tuesday morning:

The city of Orange Beach says no changes have been made to their parade schedule Tuesday afternoon. However, city officials are discussing the latest details and will post an update to social media if anything changes. At this time, the Orange Beach Parade is set to roll at 2 p.m.

Alabama Governor Robert Bentley issued the following statement following the crash on Tuesday:

My thoughts and prayers are with all those impacted by this tragic event at the Gulf Shores Mardi Gras parade. I have directed the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency to assist local law enforcement agencies with any resources they may need, and that coordination effort is currently underway. We will ensure all state resources needed to help with this investigation will be made available. Thank you to all First Responders and emergency personnel for your great efforts serving and helping our people in this difficult time. To the students, band members, families and community, please know I, and the people of this state, are praying for you.”

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