LAS VEGAS -- Police searched Friday for a Range Rover that set off a fiery crash in the heart of Las Vegas when someone opened fire on a Maserati driven by an aspiring rapper in a scene that onlookers described as worthy of an action movie.

Three people were killed early Thursday and at least six more were injured in what marked the latest in a series of violent episodes in the desert city.

A relative identified the driver of the Maserati as Kenneth Cherry. His parents were travelling to Las Vegas to claim their son's body, his great aunt, Patricia Sims, told The Associated Press.

"Right now my heart is breaking," Sims said. "This has really been a tragedy. Kenny was just a delightful kid."

Sims, 75, said Cherry recently moved from Northern California to Las Vegas, though she didn't know her nephew was a rapper using the name Kenny Clutch. Cherry was particularly close with his 106-year-old grandmother.

"I haven't been able to tell her," Sims said of her mother.

The dramatic shooting took place as the vehicles raced toward a red light on the Las Vegas Strip, the city's main boulevard. Beneath the neon lights, police say, the Maserati ran a red light at a busy intersection and smashed into a taxi that exploded into flames, killing the two people inside.

The cab driver, Michael Boldon, 62, was a father and grandfather with a passion for fast cars, his younger sister, Carolyn Jean Trimble, told the AP.

"Everybody just loved him," Trimble said. "When that car hit that cab, Mike had to be in there talking and laughing."

The six injured included a passenger in the Maserati. Police said each was treated for injuries that were characterized as minor.

Three more cars and a truck also collided at a crossroads home to several large casinos, leaving at least six more people injured as the Range Rover sped off in the pre-dawn darkness.

Police have not released the identities of the victims but said the Maserati passenger was co-operating with police.

The shooting set off a frantic search for the occupants of the Range Rover.

Las Vegas police Sgt. John Sheahan said the vehicle was last seen near the Venetian resort as it headed north from the shooting scene. He said police have video from traffic cameras at the intersection and were checking hotel surveillance systems, but added that the video will not be made public.

Police said they were contacting authorities in three neighbouring states about the Range Rover Sport with dark tinted windows, distinctive black custom rims and paper dealer ads in place of license plates.

Sheriff Doug Gillespie said the shooting was sparked by an argument in the valet area of the nearby Aria hotel-casino.

"What happened will not be tolerated," Gillespie said. He promised the shooters would be "found and prosecuted to the full extent of the law."

The shooting marked the latest episode on the Strip since the beginning of the year. Two people were critically wounded in a shooting at a parking garage on Feb. 6, and a tourist was stabbed last Saturday in an elevator at The Hotel at Mandalay Bay.

The area has been the site of high-profile violence in the past.

Rapper Tupac Shakur was killed in a drive-by shooting in 1996 about a block away under similar circumstances, as assailants opened fire on his luxury sedan from a vehicle on Flamingo Road. The killing has never been solved.

On the Strip, the fiery rampage shocked tourists.

"This doesn't happen where we come from, not on this scale," said Mark Thompson, who was visiting from Manchester, England, with his wife. "We get stabbings, and gang violence, but this is like something out of a movie. Like 'Die Hard' or something."

"The people I feel sorry for are the people in the taxi," said Elvina Joyce, a tourist from Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada. "Seconds made all the difference in the world for them. Wrong place, wrong time."