A man fleeing police plowed his car into a crowd in Feltonville last night, killing three children and leaving the mother of one of them in critical condition.

The crash happened shortly after 7:30 on Third Street just south of Annsbury Street.

A witness who came upon the scene immediately after the accident called it horrific.

Samuel Colon, 41, who lives nearby, heard the crash and went to investigate, he said. He saw the bodies of two children who appeared to be have been dismembered and a girl pinned under the car.

"I checked her pulse, and she was gone," Colon said.

Lt. Frank Vanore, a police spokesman, gave this account:

At 7:29 p.m. at Fisher and Rising Sun Avenues in Olney, two men took a Yamaha motorcycle at gunpoint. One rode off on the Yamaha; the other fled in a silver Pontiac Grand Am.

At 7:31, an officer spotted the Pontiac at C Street and Roosevelt Boulevard and began chasing it.

The Pontiac turned south on Third and jumped the curb just south of Annsbury, Vanore said. It struck four people: three children younger than 10 - one a toddler - and a woman who was the mother of one of the victims, he said.

Two of the children were pronounced dead at the scene. Another was pronounced dead at St. Christopher's Hospital for Children. The woman, who is in her 20s, was taken to Albert Einstein Medical Center in critical condition.

The high-speed crash was so violent that the Pontiac was totaled and ended up wedged between a rowhouse and a utility pole.

The accident scene was frenetic, with scores of officers guarding a large perimeter to keep back the many people who had gathered, some overcome with emotion. At one point, police led two women away, one screaming: "She's only 7! She's only 7!"

Mayor Nutter, who arrived with his police commanders, spoke briefly with reporters.

"This is an incredible tragedy," he said.

"Three children killed senselessly through the action of this individual. All we can ask is that the citizens of the city pray for these children, pray for these families," he said.

The suspect, who was not identified, was taken to a hospital with injuries that were not life-threatening, Police Commissioner Charles H. Ramsey said. A gun was recovered from the Pontiac, police said.

Asked about the pursuit, Ramsey said: "We're reviewing tape. We're reviewing everything right now."

The stolen motorcycle was recovered several blocks from the accident scene in the 4100 block of North Eighth Street, police said.

Police said they took a suspect into custody there after he tried to run into a house. His name was not released.

Contact staff writer Robert Moran at 215-854-5983 or bmoran@phillynews.com.