Charlottesville protests: Rugby star Chris Mahony relives horror of crash

Chris Mahony, a former New Zealand professional
rugby player has helped US police catch the driver
who drove into a crowd and killed a woman attending
the Charlottesville protests. Courtesy: CNN

Chris Mahoney detailed what happened after a car hit
a crowd of people at Charlottesville. Picture:
Screengrab

A FORMER New Zealand professional rugby player has
helped US police catch the driver who ploughed into a crowd
killing one person as white nationalists clashed with counter
protesters in Virginia.

Chris Mahony, an Auckland-born adviser for the World Bank in
Washington DC, said he noticed a grey sports car suspiciously
stopped a small distance away from a group of people protesting
the white supremacists on Saturday in Charlottesville.

“I thought that was a bit strange,” Mr Mahony, 36, told CNN.

“Of course moments later we heard a car going incredibly fast
down the road and saw it plough into the crowd.”

A vehicle reverses after driving into a group of protesters in Charlottesville, Va. Picture: Ryan M. Kelly/The Daily Progress via AP

A vehicle reverses after
driving into a group of protesters in Charlottesville,
Va. Picture: Ryan M. Kelly/The Daily Progress via
AP
Source:AP


Video shot by bystanders showed the car accelerating and
smashing into the crowd
and another vehicle and then
rapidly reversing in an attempt to escape.

Mr Mahony, who played rugby for Auckland in the Air New Zealand
Cup and for Oxford University, said he sprinted after the car
to take photos to identify it and also alert police.

He saw a police officer and told him: “That car just ploughed
into a whole lot of people”.

The police officer immediately radioed the information to other
officers and the driver was arrested.

“He said, ‘We are on it. Quickly take me to where this
happened’,” Mr Mahony said.

Mr Mahony said he was not surprised tensions exploded between
white nationalist groups, who were protesting the planned
removal of a statue of Confederate Army General Robert E Lee
from a park in the city, and counter groups.

Mr Mahoney said he was surprised as tensions exploded. Picture: Screengrab

Mr Mahoney said he was
surprised as tensions exploded. Picture:
Screengrab
Source:CNN

Some white nationalists waved Confederate and Nazi flags,
chanted Nazi slogans and were armed with assault rifles, poles
and shields.

Mr Mahony was among the counter demonstrators.

“You had a high level of antagonism,” he said.

“It wasn’t necessarily peaceful.

“You had people literally in military fatigues walking around
so that is an incredibly intimidating environment.” He was
sickened when he saw the car crash into the crowd.

“When that happened I thought, ‘This is someone deliberately
attacking these people because of their beliefs’,” he said.

An Ohio man accused of driving a car into a group of
counter-protesters at a white nationalist rally has been
charged with second-degree murder and other counts.

The moment the car struck the crowd. Picture: Ryan M. Kelly/The Daily Progress via AP

The moment the car struck the
crowd. Picture: Ryan M. Kelly/The Daily Progress via
AP
Source:AP

The Charlottesville Police Department said in a statement that
James Alex Fields Jr, 20, also faces three counts of malicious
wounding, and one count related to leaving the scene.

US President Donald Trump spoke out about the incident shortly
after it occurred. Addressing reporters, he said: “We condemn
in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of
hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides, on many sides.

“It’s been going on for a long time in our country. Not Donald
Trump. Not Barack Obama. It’s been going on for a long, long
time. It has no place in America. What is vital now is a swift
restoration of law and order and the protection of innocent
lives.”

However, critics said his response didn’t go far enough and
that he needed to condemn the white supremacist movement
specifically.

Charlottesville Mayor and Democrat Michael Signer directly
blamed Mr Trump over the tragedy.

“I’m not going to make any bones about it,” he said.

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