By AMANDA MARTINEZ and ARMAND EMAMDJOMEH
A crowd of more than 60 people filled the corners near the 800 block of Capp Street at 23rd Street to see the effects of a car collision that left five cars smashed and at least three people in the hospital. Only one person appeared to have serious injuries, according to eyewitnesses.
None of the names have been released.
The commotion from the crowd watching the scene felt like an extended family gathered to watch an exciting telenovela. Women exchanged accounts of what they had seen or heard while groups of children ran between police cars taking camera phone pictures and video of the still fresh debris.
But the episode that began shortly after 12:30 p.m. was terrifying for shop owners, pedestrians and motorists. Carla, who declined to give her last name, said she was walking her baby behind a white Jeep in the parking lot at 24th and Capp streets when she noticed the car was revving the engine.
Once she passed, the car, driven by an older gentleman with an older woman in the passenger seat, according to others, tore out of the parking lot, hitting a black Mercedes SUV that was stopped at a red light at the intersection going northbound, then scraping between a Mercedes and another parked car.
Police said the driver of the Jeep did not stop after hitting the Mercedes but continued Northbound on Capp Street. Seconds later the Jeep ran a stop sign at Capp and 23rd, hitting a red Ford Expedition and then continued to hit two parked cars – a black BMW and a silver Honda on the 800 block of Capp Street.
“It looked like he was running away, said Albert Quiambao, a telephone worker who had been working in a manhole at 23rd and Capp streets at the time of the crash. “I heard him coming because he hit a car a block away and I jumped for the sidewalk.”
Alex Parada, manager at Los Andes Deli on the corner of 23rd and Capp said he saw the red Ford Expedition spin out of control towards his shop after being hit by the Jeep. He and one customer prepared for the Expedition to smash through the doors of the store by bracing themselves behind the store’s freezers. The Expedition instead smashed into a light pole, leaving the store unharmed.
By the time Parada reached the phone to call 911 police were already on the scene and had surrounded the Jeep.
Eyewitnesses say the man driving the Jeep did not appear to be badly hurt and was walked out of the car to an ambulance. An elderly woman who was a passenger in the Jeep was also taken by wheelchair to the ambulance. However the driver of the red SUV was put on a stretcher to be transported to the hospital.
“His face looked drunk,” said Emerson Bamaca, a neighbor who saw the driver exit the car.
“He looked to be near his 60’s and his face looked drunk.” It’s also possible the man was just flushed from the experience.
Adela Garcia, resident of the 800 block of Capp Street said the parked black BMW that was hit belong to her husband. “It was his baby,” she said. Garcia and her husband were shocked to see their car had been hit but quickly after they were approached by a couple in tears who said if it hadn’t been for the BMW the driver would have jumped the curb and hit them.
Some residents say reckless driving is not unusual in the area around Capp St.
“I’ve seen tons of accidents and several cars destroyed,” said one resident who’s lived nearby for 18 years, he added that he’s had two cars destroyed in the past by hit-and-run drivers.
“I would have been safer inside the hole,” laughed Quiambao, resuming work in the man hole as police cleared the site.