A freak accident almost led to disaster on Wednesday when a brake malfunction caused a woman's car to nearly collide with President Donald Trump's motorcade on a highway in southern Missouri, police say.
Trump was returning from a speech on tax reform in Springfield when a white sedan emerged from a wooded area, plowed down an embankment, and headed directly for the presidential limousine.
The car stopped about 10 meters (30 feet) from Trump's limousine, which sped by unharmed with the rest of the motorcade. Video posted on social media showed a woman emerge from the car, seemingly distressed at her accident.
Police quickly determined there was no intent to harm the president.
"It was a horribly timed mistake," said Lisa Cox, with the Springfield Police Department. "It's like the opposite of winning the lottery."
Local police and Secret Service officers questioned the woman and a passenger, before releasing them both unharmed, Cox said.
In a statement, the Secret Service said an investigation revealed the vehicle "experienced a total failure of its braking system."
"The vehicle did not make contact with any motorcade vehicles, and there was no alteration of the motorcade route. A security sweep of the vehicle was carried out with negative results," the statement said.
Still, the incident had many onlookers wondering if they had just witnessed an assassination attempt.
"It came right out of the woods, out of the tall grass," said Kirk Stanton, who works across the street at a used car lot. "I didn't know what the deal was. You know, it's Kearney Street — anything can happen here."
Dan Emmett, a former Secret Service officer who teaches at Auburn University, said while the incident posed no threat, it is still concerning that a car was able to approach the president without being stopped.
"Had the driver been on a suicide mission, for example, she could have easily intercepted the [president's] limo and detonated," Emmett said.
Presidential limousines are incredibly secure. Nicknamed "The Beast," the fleet of presidential limos are reported to feature 20-centimeter-thick armor plating and multilayered protective windows, and are built on the frame of a truck, not a car.
It's not unusual for minor traffic incidents to occur during presidential motorcades.
Perhaps the most famous incident was in 1975, when a driver in Hartford, Connecticut, plowed through an unprotected intersection, slamming into the limousine carrying then-President Gerald Ford. Ford was unhurt.
The incident prompted a police investigation into possible security lapses, and Emmett suspects the latest one with Trump will, too.
"This is an anomaly, although corrective action will be forthcoming, I am certain," he said.