2 of 3 people killed in crash at indoor auto auction identified

BILLERICA, Mass. (AP) — Two Rhode Island residents were identified Thursday as victims of a deadly crash at a crowded indoor automobile auction in Massachusetts.

Three people died Wednesday when an SUV being shown to prospective buyers suddenly accelerated, striking several people and crashing through a wall at the LynnWay Auto Auction. Nine people were injured.

The cause of the crash remains under investigation, but investigators believe it was not an intentional act.

Brenda Lopez, 48, and Pantaleon Santos, 49, both of Rhode Island, were pronounced dead at the scene, according to a statement from Middlesex District Attorney Marian Ryan and Billerica police Chief Daniel Rosa. Their hometowns were not given.

The statement also confirmed that Leezandra Aponte, 36, of Lowell, died after being taken to a hospital after the crash. Aponte’s family had previously reported her death. Her brother Orlando Aponte said she was a mother of three and was killed on her first day working at LynnWay.

Of the nine people who were hurt, one, a 55-year-old man, remained hospitalized with serious injuries.

An auction employee in his 70s was behind the wheel of the 2006 Jeep Grand Cherokee when it apparently lurched out of control and mowed people down at the weekly auction in Billerica, about 20 miles (32 kilometers) northwest of Boston. The driver, whose name has not been released, was not hospitalized.

The president of LynnWay, Jim Lamb, said in a statement Thursday that safety barriers will be installed to keep vehicles from leaving their designated lanes during auctions.

The company said on its website that it was “shaken and deeply saddened” by Wednesday’s accident and that its thoughts and prayers were with the victims and their families.

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