The crash happened just blocks from where a driver in January ran down a group of people with his car in a busy pedestrian mall, killing six and injuring many others before he was shot and taken into custody. The police said he was fleeing the police after stabbing his brother.
After that crash, the police installed bollards to protect pedestrians from similar incidents.
Police and antiterrorism officials have become increasingly concerned about the possibility of deadly attacks on pedestrians with vehicles. In October, a man drove his truck into a group of pedestrians along the West Side Highway in Manhattan, killing eight people and injuring 12 in what the police called an act of terrorism. Investigators said he was inspired to commit the attack by Islamic State propaganda videos.
Vehicle attacks have also claimed victims in Nice, France, as well as in Berlin, Barcelona and London, among others.
Jim Stoupas, the owner of a doughnut shop in the area, told CNN that the driver “just barreled through pedestrians.”
“The only thing that slowed him down was just the volume of pedestrians that he hit,” Mr. Stoupas said.
“It seemed to not slow down,” he said of the vehicle. “He literally just careened as if he was on a freeway. All you could hear was screams and just people bouncing off the car. It was awful.”
Video taken by a bystander, Lachlan Vella, after the S.U.V. came to a stop showed police officers in tactical gear using plastic ties to restrain one of the suspects, a man in a white T-shirt.
Mr. Vella said he believed the suspect was unconscious when he was removed from the mangled vehicle and detained by the police.
In the video, the front half of the S.U.V. is severely damaged, and both airbags are shown deployed. A slick of liquid appears to be leaking from the car. Another person, possibly a female victim, is briefly seen lying in the street being attended to by officers.
The attack paralyzed the heart of Melbourne at the end of the workday, just as it was teeming with people heading home or doing last-minute holiday shopping.
“Everyone in Melbourne would have crossed that intersection at one time or another,” said Adam Bandt, a member of Parliament from Melbourne. “People are in shock and probably will be for some time.”
After the crash, the police appealed to the public to submit video of the incident to help with the investigation.
“This has been a very traumatic event, and there will be witnesses, victims and family members affected,” Commander Barrett said. He added that access to the site of the attack, in the heart of Melbourne, would be restricted for a “considerable period of time,” and he and other officials urged people to avoid the area.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull offered his “thoughts & prayers” to the victims and others affected by the attack.
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