PHILADELPHIA - Two men forced a woman into her sport utility vehicle at gunpoint and drove off but soon lost control of it and plowed into a group of people selling fruit at a street corner to raise money for their church, killing two young boys and their teenage sister, police said. Two women, including the children's mother, were critically injured.
"Three innocent children had their lives taken," Homicide Capt. John Clark said.
The accident occurred late Friday morning about a mile from where the carjacking occurred.
Clark said the carjackers may have blown a tire as they turned a corner at high speed. The car ended up in a wooded area, its front end smashed against a stand of trees.
"Something obviously went horribly wrong," Clark said.
The two dead brothers were ages 7 and 10, and their sister was 15. Police said their mother, 34, was in extremely critical condition. Their identities weren't immediately released.
The carjackers fled the scene on foot and remained at large.
Also helping the children and their mother sell fruit was a neighbor, who also was struck. The neighbor, 65, was reported in stable condition, police said.
Police said the carjacked woman, a 45-year-old real estate agent who was forced into the backseat of her SUV, also was critically injured.
Police were offering a $60,000 reward for the carjackers' capture. They also asked businesses with surveillance cameras to provide footage and asked anyone with information in the case to come forward.
Witness Renee Charleston said she saw a car streaking through the intersection, then noticed children on the ground.
"Nobody was moving," she told television station WPVI.
Employees at Education Works, an educational nonprofit across the street from the site of the wreck, told The Philadelphia Inquirer that they ran to try to help the victims. One boy had no pulse and another's was barely there, said Karen Payne, who runs a summer camp at the nonprofit.
"I'm certified in first aid and CPR - my first instinct was to go to them," she said. "But I couldn't help."
Deputy Mayor Everett Gillison said the mayor was heartbroken.
"The prayers of the city go out to this family," he said.