A dozen children were injured and a girl was killed when a car slammed into a daycare centre on Wednesday in Florida after being struck by a hit-and-run driver, police said.
Several children suffered “very serious” injuries following the incident at the KinderCare centre in Winter Park, outside Orlando, said Florida Highway Patrol spokeswoman Wanda Diaz.
The young victims were rushed to hospitals in the region, where one later died, as police launched a manhunt for the owner of the SUV that prompted the tragedy.
Authorities did not release details about the dead girl, but the daycare centre is for children from six weeks to 12 years old, its website said.
Speaking at the scene, where parents had dashed to after news of the accident filtered through, Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs said: “Keep them in your prayers... Together we will find whoever is responsible for this.”
One parent, Evette Rivera, 39, said she saw “a huge hole” in the side of the building that led into a classroom. There were more than 50 children inside at the time, according to Fire Rescue spokesman John Mulhall.
Diaz told a news conference the accident occurred after a silver or grey Dodge Durango sports utility vehicle crashed into another vehicle, sending it careening into the daycare centre.
The Dodge Durango then sped off, she added. Authorities later said they had found the SUV and were searching for its driver.
The SUV is registered to a 28-year-old man who, records show, was sentenced to three years in prison in 2010 on cocaine trafficking charges stemming from an arrest in May 2009. He was released in September 2012.
There were conflicting reports about the number hurt, with police initially saying 11 children and Orange County Fire Rescue putting the number at least 15 people.
One child was pinned by the car, official said.
Parents rushed to the scene to check on their children, escorting or carrying them out one by one. Some children were being escorted by sheriff's deputies.
Many of the children seemed unaware of the danger, while others were seen crying.
Joel Rosado, a roofer, told the Orlando Sentinel that he was working at a nearby gas station when he heard a loud screech, then saw the crash.
The Durango hit a small, dark-coloured car, he said, which barrelled into the daycare centre. - Sapa-AFP