updated 1/22/2009 8:13:11 PM ET 2009-01-23T01:13:11

An unoccupied delivery van mistakenly left in reverse jumped a curb and barreled into a group of children returning to their day care center after a trip to the library Thursday, killing two of them and seriously injuring a third, police said.

Fourteen other children were hospitalized for treatment of minor injuries.

The incident, which occurred in Manhattan's Chinatown commercial district around 11:30 a.m. as the children walked less than two blocks through the busy area with their teachers, was ruled an accident, and the driver wasn't charged, police said.

An investigation found that the driver had double-parked and jumped out of the van to make a delivery, thinking he had left it running in park, police said. Instead, the van traveled backward and hopped a curb on the opposite side of the street.

'This was an accident'
The driver initially was held for questioning, but "it turns out this was an accident," police spokesman Paul Browne said.

An examination of the van and a security videotape supported the driver's account, Browne added.

Police identified the children who died as Hayley Ng, 4, and Diego Martinez, 3, both of Manhattan.

At the Red Apple Child Development Center, a police officer guarded the front entrance.

Liana Flores, 34, came to pick up her daughters, 4-year-old Chloe and 2-year-old Sophia, who were not involved in the accident. She said the atmosphere inside the school was "very quiet," with parents and teachers appearing shaken.

"I could see on their faces they were upset," she said. "The teachers looked like they were about to break out in tears."

Children had been at library
The children who were hit had been at the Chatham Square branch of the New York Public Library for a monthly school visit, library spokesman Herb Scher said. The librarian read to them for about half an hour, then they browsed on their own.

Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer said the area's "overwhelming amount of truck traffic" has been discussed at community meetings.

"This is something that we have worried about for months and months," he said.

The accident scene was clogged with ambulances and other emergency vehicles. The street is full of commercial properties with apartments above some businesses. An elevated subway runs nearby.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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