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There was a rumor at the time that Lifsh was intoxicated.
A breath alcohol test administered by police within 70 minutes of the accident indicated this was not the case.
His seven-year-old cousin Angela Cato, who was playing nearby, survived but was severely injured.
Lifsh said he deliberately steered his car away from adults on the sidewalk, toward the wall, a distance of about 25 yards (23 m), in order to stop the car.
Other rumors circulating shortly after the accident included: Lifsh was on a cell phone, Lifsh did not have a valid driver's license, and that police prevented people, including Gavin Cato's father, from assisting in the rescue of the children.
A number of black youths set off westward toward Kingston Avenue (0.7 miles (1.1 km) away from Utica Avenue), a street of predominantly Jewish residents several blocks away, vandalizing cars, and throwing rocks and bottles as they went.
An interview with Rabbi Shmuel Butman, published in 1991, mentions a police directive to Hatzolah to transport Lifsh, along with Jews already injured by rioters, without transporting either of the Cato children.
In the wake of the fatal accident, some black youths attacked several Jews on the street, seriously injuring several and fatally injuring an Orthodox Jewish student from Australia.
Al Sharpton referred to "diamond dealers" (a Jewish business) and said, "It's an accident to allow an apartheid ambulance service in the middle of Crown Heights."Almost immediately after the riot a host of differing interpretations emerged regarding its nature and origins. reflected the diverse political, religious, and social circumstances, the differing ideological assumptions, and the divergent understandings of the past by the journalists, sociologists, political activists, and historians who wrote about the riot.
About three hours after the riots began, early on the morning of August 20, a group of approximately 20 young black men surrounded Yankel Rosenbaum, a 29-year-old Jewish University of Melbourne student in the United States conducting research for his doctorate.
Not wishing to lose sight of Schneerson's car, Lifsh's vehicle either crossed Utica Avenue on a yellow light or ran a red light.
There was no indication of the exact speed of Lifsh's vehicle.
Lifsh later said that the car did not come to a full stop when it hit the building, but slid to the left along the wall and hit the children. After the collision, Lifsh said that the first thing he did was to try to lift the car in order to free the two children beneath it.