Associated Press Writer
LAS VEGAS - A 70-year-old man told police he fainted before his speeding vehicle plowed into a Nevada casino, killing two people near a bank of slot machines and injuring at least eight other people.
But investigators didn't immediately dismiss the chance that a mechanical malfunction sent the 2007 Pontiac Vibe crashing into the Edgewater Hotel & Casino on the Colorado River waterfront, Las Vegas police Officer Jacinto Rivera said Wednesday.
"A lot of things can't be ruled out," Rivera said. "They're going to look at whether mechanical was a factor. He's claiming he fainted."
The Vibe is a joint venture between Toyota and General Motors Co. Officials said Wednesday the 2007 model involved in the crash was not part of two Toyota recalls that recently affected millions of cars in the United States because of a risk of unintended acceleration.
Rivera said witnesses saw the four-door vehicle speed through a red light, cross Casino Drive and down a 150-foot horseshoe-shaped driveway into the front doors of the 26-story hotel about 9:30 a.m. Wednesday.
A hotel executive said he was told the vehicle was traveling faster than 60 mph.
A rescuer who arrived about 10 minutes after the wreck said the 2,700-pound car crashed through glass doors and came to rest perhaps 35 feet inside the building between the hotel registration desk and a casino cashier cage.
"Slot machines were just everywhere, just wiped out, tumbled and tossed," said Bill Kinsey, fire division chief in Bullhead City, Ariz., across the river from Laughlin.
One of the people killed was wedged beneath the vehicle and slot machines, Kinsey said. Another was near the rear of the vehicle.
Kinsey said he believed casino security cameras captured the entire episode. Rivera said police would impound casino security videotapes as evidence.
"It's going to be instrumental in determining what happened out here," the police spokesman said.
Kinsey said vehicle air bags deployed, and the driver received only minor injuries.
Police identified the driver as Walter McGie of Kelso, Wash. None of the victims were identified.
Authorities said McGie was jailed on two counts of felony reckless driving causing death.
There was no evidence the driver applied the brakes before the crash, Rivera said.
Officer Barbara Morgan said police at the scene reported that alcohol or drugs did not appear to be factors in the crash.
Investigators will have to check whether the 2007 Vibe accelerated out of control. Last month, 2009 and 2010 Vibe models were recalled because of a risk of a floor mat trapping the gas pedal, causing unintended acceleration.
General Motors spokesman Tom Wilkinson said Wednesday the Vibe underwent significant design differences between the 2008 and 2009 model years. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration did not have any defects or recalls for the 2007 Vibe listed in its database.
Six people injured in the crash were taken to Western Arizona Regional Medical Center in Bullhead City, hospital spokeswoman Sarah Morga said. One was admitted in stable condition, and two others with more serious injuries were flown to the trauma center at University Medical Center in Las Vegas. Three others were treated and released.
Police and firefighters said at least two other people were treated at the scene for minor injuries.
Associated Press Writer Oskar Garcia in Las Vegas contributed to this report.