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Car plows into school children at O'Hare airport

CHICAGO -- A car driven by an elderly man crashed into a crowd of school children on a tour Thursday at O'Hare International Airport, killing one child and injuring nearly 90 other people, officials said.

As many as 88 people were injured, Fire Department spokesman Mike Cosgrove said. Seven were considered 'red or critical and 17 moderate to serious.'

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Rebecca Westlake, 9, was pronounced dead Thursday afternoon at Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge, where a number of the injured were taken.

'I saw two school buses full of kids getting off between Terminal 1 and Terminal 2,' airport worker Tom Mertz said. 'They were just standing looking above the edge of the upper level to the lower level and a car just came crashing into them, scattering bodies all over the place.'

'They (children) were crying all over the place,' one witness said.

City aviation spokeswoman Lisa Howard said 88 people were transported from the scene to nine different hospitals, with six in critical condition, 16 seriously injured, one in intensive care and 44 in good condition.

The injured included a tour guide who works for the city of Chicago, Howard said.

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Martin Horvath, 87, Elgin, was waiting between terminals to pick up his son, Howard said, when his car accelerated up on a curb and into the line of third-graders.

Horvath 'was going to park behind the bus,' Police Officer Tom Swain said. 'He was trying to stop the vehicle but instead of stopping the accelerator stuck.'

Horvath was charged with negligent driving and operating an unsafe vehicle.

The injured were among 60 third-graders, six special education students, three teachers and a number of chaperones from Southeast Elementary School in Sycamore, a DeKalb County community about 60 miles west of Chicago. School secretary Jean Bjorn said the children were on an annual field trip.

'I think this was the third year for the field trip,' Bjorn said. 'I think last year one of the buses had a breakdown but nothing like this has ever happened before.'

A woman who worked at Lutheran General 'went white' upon hearing of the crash, knowing her grandchild was to be among the group, Ventrello said.

'He ended up not going because he was sick,' she said.

The incident was the third in a week in which a car jumped a curb and slammed into a group of people.

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In Manhattan, five people died and 26 were injured when a 74-year-old woman lost control of her car last Thursday and plowed through a Greenwich Village park, wiping out benches and demolishing a stone water fountain.

Tuesday, a 69-year-old Brooklyn man sitting in an illegally parked car on a Midtown Manhattan street injured nine people when he obeyed a traffic agent's order to move the car and instead jumped a curb and crashed into a music store.

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