Right outside my work, a burgundy Buick Le Sabre just drove through the Santa Monica Farmer’s Market at top speeds, hurtling through barricades and injuring at least
40 25 people and killing at least eight ten. Ambulances and helicopters; it’s a huge mess. Ten minutes later, it started to pour rain.
Map of the site. The car ran down Arizona from east to west, through the barricade at Fourth Street, and stopped three blocks later in the middle of the block between Ocean and Second Street, right in front of my work.
I don’t have a digital camera, but here are the first two news stories from MSNBC and a local NBC affilate. Live video from MSNBC. CNN, LA Times, AP, CBS News, ABC News, KTLA, New York Times. Photos: Yahoo, KTLA, LA Times, CNN. More from Google News (updated often).
My co-worker confirmed the driver was an older man with a cane, who appeared to be fine after the accident. Some people speculate the car was moving at upwards of 60mph.
I was walking through the Farmer’s Market on my way back from lunch, right down the middle of the street, only 20 minutes before the accident. My friend Phil was buying produce only 10 minutes before. Fortunately everyone here is fine, but so many others aren’t. Seeing the dead and dying, one unconscious on the hood of the car and waiting for medical attention… It’s very difficult to take.
4:05pm: There’s a group of Highway Patrol officers huddling around the front of the car now. There’s still a pair of shoes on the roof of the car. The rain stopped, but it’s overcast and the wind’s kicking up. It’s been warm and sunny all day; very strange weather for this area.
4:50pm: Several vendors and the Farmer’s Market organizers are waiting at the yellow police tape at Arizona and 2nd, waiting to get back to their abandoned (and sometimes destroyed) booths. Film crews and small groups of spectators lurk at the sidelines. Arizona Ave. is still cluttered with produce and flowers, but the area is otherwise clear now. Local police, highway patrol and crisis management workers are the only people near the car and the crime scene. All the injured have long since moved to local hospitals.
6:05pm: Helicopters are still circling overhead. The man was identified as 86-year-old George Russell Weller, a regular at the Farmer’s Market. Our local TV news said he told police that he confused the accelerator with the brake.
11:10pm: NBC reports that the coroner’s office has declared a ninth dead tonight. Five men, three women, and a three-year-old girl. At least six remain in critical condition.
10:15am: Russ Weller’s car was towed last night, and the half-block stretch of Arizona between Ocean and 2nd in front of our building is open now, but Arizona is still taped off from the intersection of Arizona and 2nd clear up to 4th. The flowers from the florist stand are still there, but the other stands and vendor vehicles seem to be gone. Some produce and other debris is still on the streets. The Red Cross has a blood donation truck on Santa Monica and 3rd, if you’re in the neighborhood.
The LA Times has good coverage of yesterday’s events, including a good PDF diagram of the car’s path. CNN, NBC, and other local news stations were still out there with live coverage. My co-worker Joe Chrisman was interviewed by CNN this morning. Joe was on the street when the accident happened, and was among the ten people who lifted the Buick off of a woman trapped under the car. Thank you, Joe.
2:15pm: Officials released the names of the deceased. The police removed the tape a couple hours ago, and Arizona is now open again. On our way to lunch, we passed a memorial of flowers left by mourners.
July 18, 2003: Three good articles from the Los Angeles Times are putting perspective on the depth of the event. Suddenly, They Were Gone offers upsetting profiles and anecdotes about each victim. Also: Coroner’s Unit Sobered by Extent of Devastation and Crash Adds Urgency, Emotion to Debate Over Elderly Drivers.