In the German city of Muenster, a van plowed into a crowd of people on Saturday morning, killing and seriously injuring multiple people. German police have reportedly closed off access to the immediate vicinity of the crash, and are urging people to avoid the city center. Thus far, as detailed by the BBC, the latest updates to the Muenster, Germany, van crash are that the driver is dead, and more than 20 people were injured in the crash, six of them seriously. Three more people have been confirmed killed by the crash.
It's important to note that early, initial news reports in the aftermath of chaotic and deadly incidents like these can sometimes be prone to error, so it's important not to jump to hard and fast conclusions about things like causes and motives. That said, German police have reportedly investigating the home of the van's driver, according to the Associated Press, in an effort to ascertain what, if anything, could have led to this deadly incident taking place.
One of Germany's biggest daily newspapers, Süddeutsche Zeitung, has reported that the police do not believe the incident had a terroristic motivation, and that the driver was a middle-aged German man who was flagged by authorities as having mental health problems in 2014 and 2016. After crashing the van into a crowd outside a bar in Muenster, the driver reportedly shot and killed himself while still inside the vehicle.
German prime minister Angela Merkel has reportedly offered her condolences to the victims of the deadly crash, calling herself "deeply shocked" by the incident, and saying that "everything conceivable is being done to investigate the crime and to support the victims and their relatives." She also thanked the emergency responders who're working at the scene.
German law enforcement authorities are also reportedly investigating whether the driver of the van had any accomplices, as early reports suggested there may have been other people who fled from the van after it crashed.
According to the AP, a "senior German security official" claims that investigators believe the driver of the van, who was 48 years old, had recently tried to kill himself prior to the crash.
Andreas Bode, a spokesperson for the North Rhine-Westphalia police, told reporters on Saturday that six people were seriously injured when the van crashed into the crowd, and local hospitals are reportedly seeking blood donations. Bode also noted that there "some eyewitness accounts" of other people exiting the vehicle after the crash, but so far there's been no ironclad confirmation on those accounts.
The official Twitter account for the North-Rhine Westphalia police tweeted out the following on Saturday, urging people to stay out of the affected area and look to law enforcement for verified information about the incident.
"We are here. Please avoid the area of the city center. All information you get here. Please no speculation and rumors. Take care of the victims. Rescue workers are currently providing the injured," the tweet said, according to Google Translate.
It remains to be seen when German authorities will speak publicly about what spurred the apparent attack ― Merkel herself called it a "crime" in her public remarks on Saturday ― but it's fairly clear that they're proceeding with some caution, so not to jump to erroneous conclusions.
Vehicular ramming attacks are nothing new for the German people. Back in 2016, a high-profile and massively deadly such attack took place in the city of Berlin, leaving 12 people dead and 56 more people injured. In that case, the incident was classified and investigated as a terrorist attack. No such designation has been made in this case, however.