LIVE: Watch 4pm news on WHNT News 19

12 students injured as SUV hits school marching band in Gulf Shores Mardi Gras parade

(CNN) -- Twelve Alabama students were injured Tuesday when a Ford Expedition plowed into a marching band during a Mardi Gras parade.

Three are in critical condition, Gulf Shores city spokesman Grant Brown said. The victims' ages range from 12 to 17.

Brown said a 73-year-old man was driving the SUV, which accelerated before it hit the Gulf Shores High School marching band. It was not immediately clear why the driver accelerated, but authorities do not believe the crash was intentional.

"Every indication is that it was a tragic accident by an elderly man," police Chief Ed Delmore said.

Six of those injured are middle school students; six are high school students, Baldwin County Public Schools said in a statement.

As the children were treated and rushed to ambulances, dented musical instruments and debris were scattered on the street.

Brown said there were no signs that drugs or alcohol were involved.

Several emergency agencies scrambled to the coastal community to help with what fire Battalion Chief Kevin Tolbert called a "mass trauma incident."

Tolbert said the SUV ended up on top of some of the children.

A crisis counselor was at a local high school to comfort students and parents who witnessed the crash, said Angie Swiger, a member of the Baldwin County Board of Education.

"It's going to be a very difficult day," she said. "It is a tight-knit community. We just ask for everyone's thoughts and prayers."

School officials have confirmed that eight of the 12 students have been released from the hospital.  Three students remain hospitalized in critical condition, one has been upgraded to serious condition.

"I am so glad to be able to report to you that all eight students who were treated at South Baldwin Medical Center in Foley have been released. Please continue to pray for these students as they recover and for the students at Sacred Heart in Pensacola and the USA Medical Center in Mobile who continue to receive care. We do greatly appreciate the support everyone has expressed! We have heard from people in Baldwin County and across the country who have extended their thoughts and prayers to these families. I must again thank all of our first responders who were immediately taking care of injured students. I appreciate the thoroughness of our law enforcement community and EMS. We know that our injured students are getting outstanding treatment and care from the medical communities of our area hospitals. We will continue to support the Gulf Shores family. We have not planned another news release. But as always, when I need to reach out to you, I will most certainly do so." said Superintendent Eddie Tyler.

Police have asked people who have video of the incident to send it to Gulf Shores Police for further investigation, through the email bcowan@gulfshoresal.gov - and specifically asked that it not be posted on social media. Police are trying to get a clear view of what happened.

The Gulf Shores parade was cancelled after the incident happened.  Portions of Highway 59 and surrounding roads are closed at this time.

We'll update you on the WHNT app and WHNT.com as the situation develops throughout the day.