A man who ploughed into a carnival crowd injuring 52 people including children “seemed satisfied” before choking a heroic woman who tried to wrestle his car keys from him.

Emergency responder Lea-Sophie Schloemer ran up to the silver Mercedes-Benz after it ploughed into a large crowd and ripped open the driver’s door before lunging for the keys.

But the crazed attacker grabbed her hair and began choking her while desperately trying to restart his car.

Lea told reporters the driver had an “empty and dead expression” on his face, and seemed “satisfied” with what he had done.

Among the injured were 18 children after the Rose Monday carnival horror in the town of Volkmarsen in western Germany.

Lea told Welt television she heard screams and jumped out of the way as the silver Mercedes-Benz ploughed through the crowd and then crashed, before she ran up to the vehicle.

She said: “Then he grabbed my hair and started to choke me and tried to start the car again, which he didn’t manage to do.”

Three local men then punched the driver to restrain him.

“He didn’t say a word. He looked at you empty and dead and seemed so satisfied,” said Lead.

“It was really unnerving how satisfied he seemed.”

A friend pulled Lea away from the car and she gave first aid to a child and an older woman.

Lea added: “It wasn’t an accident, nor was it an attack, but it was what he [the driver] wanted.”

The victims were aged between two and 85-years-old, Frankfurt’s general prosecutor’s office said.

German media have named the driver as Maurice P.

“I know just about everyone from Volkmarsen but he is not one of the original Volkmarsen folk,” Lea said.

“One knows him by sight perhaps. But no more.”

She believed he had moved to the town about two years ago.

The driver, detained on suspicion of attempted homicide, was being treated for his own injuries today. Reports say he is 29-years-old.

His motive is unclear.

A spokesperson for prosecutors’ said he had not been in a fit state to be questioned overnight, but was not drunk at the time of the horror incident.

Tests for drugs were due in the course of today.

The car drove around barriers to plough into revellers and witnesses say it “raced full throttle” and deliberately slammed into spectators at around 2.30pm local time.

The car travelled about 30 metres before finally coming to a stop amid a chaotic and distressing scene where bloodied victims lay on the floor.

German news media cited witnesses as saying the driver appeared to have deliberately targeted children .

According to a neighbour, he said: “I saw him drive away today, he looked like he was on drugs and said, ‘I’ll be in the newspaper soon.'”

The driver still had his foot on the gas when the car came to a full stop. Police were forced to step in to protect him when angry revellers tried to confront him, according to Bild.

Rose Monday is the height of the carnival season in Catholic areas of Germany, especially in the Rhineland where tens of thousands of people dress up, drink alcohol and line the streets to watch decorated floats that often mock public figures. The biggest parades were in Cologne, Duesseldorf and Mainz.

Other carnival events in Hesse state, where Volkmarsen is located, are still going ahead, with Hesse police saying there was nothing “concrete” to suggest the risk level had increased. The BBC reports police are warning security plans may be reviewed.

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A police statement said a second person was arrested for allegedly filming the horror.

This morning police said 35 people, including 18 children, remained in hospital.

Seventeen others have been treated and released as authorities continue to look for a motive behind the incident but they believe the man’s actions were deliberate.

Bild newspaper reported that the driver was in hospital with serious head injuries, and police have not yet been able to question him.

Volkmarsen has a population of around 7,000 and is near Kassel, about 175 miles south-west of Berlin.

District Administrator Dr. Reinhard Kubat on BILD: “It was a beautiful procession on Shrove Monday and just when the train ended I suddenly heard flashing lights and sirens.

“Crying people came towards me. There were mainly injured children on the street, but also older people.”