Santa Monica Farmer's Market Tragedy

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.

6:30pm: Jonah keeps updating LA Blogs with the latest information about this tragedy. I just learned that a seven-month-old boy is the 10th victim.

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.

77 thoughts on “Santa Monica Farmer's Market Tragedy

  1. My stomache is really turning over this, my girlfriend works right behind the Adidas store and is actually at jury duty today but she often walks to the market (as do her coworkers) in the afternoon. Her coworkers could hear the action out their window. Very sad, life is fragile.

  2. as one commenter similarly noted, I think elderly people with licenses should be required to retake driving exams.

    It may not have helped in todays case, and I know its beside the point.

    I will be saying a prayer for those families tonight.

  3. Oh, come on. It’s too easy to just blame “Old People” (or whatever class of people) when something like this happens. Sure, retest Old People, but bump the legal driving age up to 21. Kids do some pretty fucking stupid stuff, too. For every deadly accident you hear caused by an Old Person, I’d wager there are five more caused by a teenager. Don’t start judging the guy until you know more about the situation. Once you find out he was drunk or didn’t have a license or was nearly blind, well then fire away. Until then, stop the knee-jerk blame-game.

  4. My wife just heard on the news that the driver was 86 years old, and thought the accelerator pedal was the brake. I’ve believed for a while that on-the-road driving tests every ten years after the age of 60 is a fair request and a good idea.

  5. And I’d lose my wager.

    Teenagers do cause more traffic fatalities, but that’s only because there are more teenagers driving.

    According to this 1996 overview of traffic safety statitistics:

    On a per population basis, drivers under the age of 25 had the highest rate of involvement in fatal crashes of any age group.

    This supports my point. However, the following, from the same report, does not:

    When driver fatality rates are calculated on the basis of estimated annual travel, the highest rates are found among the youngest and oldest drivers. Compared with the fatality rate for drivers 25 to 65 years old, the rate for teenage drivers is about four times as high, and the rate for drivers in the oldest group is seventeen times as high.

    Still, I think it’s in poor taste to cast blame without knowing all of the facts.

    Perhaps the most equitable solution is to require mandatory on-the-road testing every five years for everyone. (Perhaps more frequently for those under 25 and those over 65).

    Some of my 35-year-old friends sure could use a checkup; I fear for my life when I ride with them!

  6. In New Zealand, from the age of 75 you have to provide a medical certificate, and from the age of 80, supply a medical certificate and resit your license every two years.

  7. I saw the guy on TV a few minutes ago, walking with family members and his lawyer. He didn’t look like he knew where in the hell he was or what had just happened or that he even cared.

  8. My prayers go to those injured and killed in this indiscribable incident. I am also puzzled that they released the 86-year-old man so soon.

    I go to Farmer’s Market every week (also today but earlier) and all of this seem very unreal and mindnumbing. Even the rain right afterward seemed strange…

  9. While it isn’t fair to immediately assume that the driver’s age is the largest contributing factor to his actions, I feel that it is reasonable to require drivers over 60 or 65 to take driving tests _every_ year.

    I’ve been in 2 accidents while I (38 yrs old) was driving. One was caused by a very elderly woman who ran a stopsign. If I had elected to not swerve up on the curb and hit the tree, I would have hit the passenger door. The driver had been picking up her granddaughter from school; the young girl would likely have been injured.

    The other accident was because a middle-aged woman was going into a diabetic “episode” (approaching unconsciousness). She was out to get a candy bar and plowed into my car where I stopped for a red light.

    The third data point I want to mention is that of my late Grandfather. He suffered from Macular Degeneration (similar to glaucoma, but the vision in the center of the field of vision goes first instead of the “tunnel vision” effect of glaucoma). Toward the end of his life, his vision deteriorated rapidly. He once got on the freeway the wrong way (no one was hurt, thankfully).

    So considering that he went from driving to nearly blind in the space of a year, and considering the statistics that do show that elderly people have more than their share of automobile accidents (per capita), I think its only prudent to have them take both the vision test and the driving test annually. And I think it would be good to test for reflex-reaction time, changes in judgement ability, etc.

    And the DMV needs to step up to the plate. I haven’t had a driving test (other than the written one) in over 20 years. Especially considering the outrageous registration fee hike. Hire more testers. You guys did sort out the long lines with the appointment system. Good job. But we need you to do more to ensure safety.

    Additionally, I think it makes sense for people with some kinds of medical conditions to be tested more frequently as well. (Perhaps not diabetes, although in her case, maybe some additional education would have prevented my accident there). The FAA does this for pilots. Cars have more potential to harm innocent people than Cesnas simply because they are operated in closer proximity to more people.

    I understand and appreciate that losing one’s driving priviledges (particularly in the case of the elderly) is difficult because it means a lack of independence. But one’s pride is not worth the potential loss of life.

  10. that’s surreal. I can without a doubt say that it sucked for all involved, even and possibly especially the old man.

  11. This is sad for everyone. My sister vends at farmers’ markets in N. CA. I am connected with the family whose children were killed by a tow truck going off an elevated hiway in San Francisco, and Friday I’m going to Ernie Elliot’s memorial service, who was killed in a crash by a kid having bad judgment on Hiway 1.

    As a species, we are driven to find meaning, and sometimes that means assigning blame. But sometimes events are just random.

  12. “For every deadly accident you hear caused by an Old Person, I’d wager there are five more caused by a teenager”

    I’d wager that there are a huge amount more than five times as many teenage drivers than 80-90 year old drivers.

    Sadly as we age we become slower to react, it’s a fact of life many of us will face. I remember hitting the accelerator instead of the brake once when I was a teenager, but it took me a split-second to realise my error and correct. I can only hope I react nearly as well when I’m 86, but it’s not likely.

    My thoughts and condolences to the dead and dying and their families, but especially to the family of the young girl who was killed. I always find such news very hard to take.

  13. Anybody remember a similar incident in Washington Square Park, New York, in 1992? A car drove though a barrier and killed about 4(?) people. Also driven by an elderly person.

  14. KCRW is reporting that Mr. Weller had recently hit the back of his garage twice, both times while trying to park inside.

  15. I have to agree with at least an annual renewal at 65 or older. My father, who is 80, went from a relatively good driver (I always thought he was a bit of a leadfoot…) to being almost completely incapable of following road cues, signs or reacting within a reasonable amount of time. This happened within the space of one year.

    He no longer drives, only because he almost killed both of us one night and scared himself into realizing that what we had been telling him (that is was no longer safe for him to drive) was true.

  16. I had to take my mother’s driver’s license away several years ago. I can tell you that she appeared to be totally together and could fool anyone. Yet, when behind the wheel, she would forget where she was going and forget standard road rules, like thinking she should be turning on a green left turn light when she was going straight and the light was red. A large majority of older people have memory loss and impaired brain function. YEARLY tests should be mandatory for senior citizens. If that means also making stricter guidelines for drivers under 25, so be it.

  17. oh please. someone should give you a bus pass. young and middle aged people plow into buildings, sidewalks, and public spaces all over the country with amazing frequency, as a result of mistaking the gas pedal for the brake pedal or forgetting that they are in forward/reverse.

  18. Hey Andy,

    I walked down there last night. Very sad. They just announced another child is dead. I have this strong feeling one of the children will prove to be a sibling to one of my daughter’s classmates. What a pain huh having the helicopters flying over head all night long. A friend called the police last night and complained. The cops said that there was nothing they could do because the tv stations are exercising their 1st amendment rights. Go figure. I’m willing to bet if I walked the streets at 2am with a loudspeaker hooked up to a recording of a helicopter our local police would have no problem ticketing me. But tv folk get to be pests with no repercussions.

    In the state of California a family member is able to make a petition to the DMV to force a “random” driving test on the elderly. I have to wonder why the family did not make such a petition. It seems very obvious they knew there was a problem. Will they end up being liable in some fashion when all of this ends up in court? I think they should be. I know this because in my family we have a driver who needs to be taken off the road. Unfortunately he is not in Cali.

    I was just listening to a couple of folk in the grocery complaining about the entire thing and how this moron got freed after the fact. Tey live in the poor parts of town and explained how when there are shootings noone pays attention but when this old white guy kills folk he gets to sleep in his own bed and it covers the news 24 hrs a day. I think they have a point. I hope the guy is charged.

    Take care Andy!

  19. After yesterdays incident I still believe in mandatory testing of any person driving after the age 55, every two years. I have been saying this for years, yet no one listens. After being in two car accidents where the elderly drivers were at fault it should be manadatory. So how do we go about suggesting this? Also it should be more than just a driving and written test. Doc’s note would be useful also.

    Many prayers to the families.

  20. It’s funny…it seems like our perspectives change with age. The teenage and young drivers are quick to blame the older drivers as being a hazzard on the roadways. Older drivers often curse the young whipper-snappers for zipping around them.

    As an 80-year old man myself, I grieve for all the victims of this tragic accident. And, yes, I say it was an accident. I’m not against re-testing older drivers, but what would it have done in this case? This driver was not mentally or visually impaired, or under medication. Are you saying that after a certain age you shouldn’t be allowed to drive at all? And what age should that be… 85? 80? 70? 60? Don’t you see that drivers of all ages can cause accidents? Perhaps we shouldn’t allow anyone to drive until there are at least 25, for as noted, drivers under 25 cause the most accidents…then to be a bit safer, perhaps we should up it to 30. Yes, that’s what I say (tongue in cheek)… No driver’s licenses until age 30!!

    Charlie,

    Still driving strong at age 80.

  21. Mr. Weller plowed into a wall at a birthday party he was attenting 10 years ago (proof evidenced through video). Luckily he didnt hurt anyone. Unluckily, no one paid attention to physical and psychological signs of Mr.Weller’s DISORIENTATION. I am surprised that the agency that issued him a renewal of his license did not properly assess Mr. Weller’s ABILITY before placing a weapon, such a car, in his hands. Obviously, Mr. Weller is DISORIENTED not only to drive, but based on his jolly disposition after the accident, I am in doubt his sense of REALITY is in tune as well. If Mr. Weller had hurt someone at that b-day party, would he still be driving? HOW does the Department of Motor Vehicles issue a license to a man who is DISORIENTED and UNAWARE like Mr. Weller? I am sorry for the victims… I pray for the families of the victims… I am angered at the prospect that a program to assess driving ability does not include frequent and harsher tests for elder, novice, and other drivers at risk…

  22. I am 38 and working towards my private pilots license. To fly a private plane I need a medical check-up every 3 years. But after 40 I need one every 2 years. Think that would be a good idea for anyone to keep there driving liciense. Just a thought.

  23. always the driver. never the car itself. never the idea of the car itself. that’s sacred, protected by a taboo. you must not question the little human body wrapped in a ton of steel burning gallons of poison and creating clouds of poison gas primarily to move the car itself, and all to go to the store. it’s always a debate about who should drive, never about whether anyone should drive, or no one. never question the car. accept it. it’s reality. it has to be like this. cars are holy. without them you’re nothing. outside them you’re a little vulnerable creature. inside them you’re invincible.

  24. always the driver. never the car itself.

    Outstanding, msg. I mean it: very well said.

    My friends and I have been discussing this very issue: the blind acceptance of certain technologies in our life, regardless of the cost, phsyically, emotionally, economically. Automobiles, televisions, etc. Most of us simply buy into the popular belief that we need these in order for our culture to survive. Perhaps we do, but if so, then is it really the culture we want?

    Great comment, msg.

  25. in response to msg and j d roth,

    technology and the car is not the issue. Mr. Weller plowed into a wall at a child’s birthday party he attended 10 years ago. Furthermore, his lack of remorse and lack of emotional impact, evidenced by all the coverage and photos available CLEARLY indicates a PSYCHOLOGICAL PROBLEM. Allied with the obvious DISORIENTATION and statement from Mr. Weller that he did not know which was the gas and which was the brake, I ask both of you: THINK AS IF YOUR GRANDCHILDREN OR SOMEONE IN YOUR FAMILY WERE IN PUBLIC AND IN THE LINE OF DAMAGE FOR A MAN WHO DOES NOT KNOW HOW TO PROPERLY OPERATE A CAR. I THINK YOUR OPINIONS WOULD DIFFER.

  26. I’m sorry but I think that that old FART should be jailed even though he didn’t mean to do it. He is responsible for the death of 10 perfectly innocent people. He should not be free to enjoy his family’s company. That’s BULL. Take him to jail and let him rot there.

  27. He should be arrested and charged with something. If senior citizens are not going to get special testing, they should get charged criminally like everybody else. He is getting special “oh he’s just a nice old man” treatment.

  28. I THINK YOUR OPINIONS WOULD DIFFER.

    You may be right, VERA, though I still think that TEHCNOLOGY is the UNDERLYING issue. And maybe if you were to THINK AS IF YOUR GRANDFATHER OR SOMEONE IN YOUR FAMILY WAS RESPONSIBLE FOR THIS TRAGEDY, YOUR OPINION MIGHT DIFFER.

    All I’m trying to say is that most of what I hear sounds like the MENTALITY of a Lynch mob, which is never good under any CIRCUMSTANCE. Is the old guy guilty of a crime? Probably so, and for that he should be PUNISHED just like anybody else. But people are too quick to pass JUDGMENT, too quick to point to PYSCHOLOGICAL PROBLEMS. Back off, and quite CONDEMNING an entire segment of the population for the MISTAKES of one man. Meanwhile, let the wheels of JUSTICE do their stuff.

    I wonder what your POSITION will be when you are 86.

  29. I feel very sad. My friend Frank lost his brother and sister-in-law. Her father is still missing. Frank called me with the news, just 3 days after telling me about Kevin’s video and asking if I had a DVD player to view it on.

    Kevin was a New Yorker who dreamed for years of making it in film and finally moved to LA last winter. I never got to meet him, but heard all about him for 8 years. It is so horrendous to see lives cut down for no purpose.

    I have been despondent since learning of this tragedy.

    From all the reports I have seen, I cannot fathom how this man did not intend to do what he did. There is no evidence of heart attack, epileptic seizure, or stroke.

    If he had experienced any of these, I doubt that he would have been able to maintain control of his vehicle. The fact that he is reported to have accelerated each time he hit another victim, and that he had frequented the farmer’s market, and that there is a 10-year old video of him slamming his car into a wall at his birthday party, tells me that there is good reason for the police to investigate.

    Had it truly been accidental, he would not have kept accelerating, he would have swerved and braked. Any person driving for what was probably in this case, 68 years, would have to know that. I tend to think it was not an innocent accident. His answers were carefully rehearsed with instructions from counsel.

    Carol Lipton

    New York City

  30. no caps at all hardly. here’s a neat site of logical fallacies: http://www.intrepidsoftware.com/fallacy/welcome.htm

    it’s real good.

    the argument that close proximity to horror does anything but cloud reason is specious.

    the current and previous wars in Iraq and the Gulf, and Afghanistan, and the world being pretty much on fire relatively speaking, the subhuman yet seemingly guiltless devastation of wild life… it’s all about the fiery wheel. the car is a drug that only crack cocaine approaches in rush and addictive hook. and we’re born into them. virtually all of us but the most urban, or Amish. they seem vital, necessary, ‘got to have it’. the so-called Washington snipers took out a small percentage of the number of people who died in traffic during that same anxious period.

    the sniper was stopped, traffic mortality is, and was, holding steady.

    cars have taken more than they will ever give, no matter what scale you use, no matter what system of values. forcing the poor, the infirm, the elderly, not to mention children, off the road while at the same time allowing the road to dominate the landscape is a triumph of cowardice.

  31. I started that last piece right after the moderator’s moderate plea. by the time I sent it Carol Lipton had posted.

    I honor her grief.

    it will be too easy settle on the driver as cause. like a drunk. if it had been an automatic weapon he used I think the debate would be somewhat more evenly joined.

  32. The Santa Monica Farmers Market was open today. A little surprising (since much of this horror and sadness has not come to a closure yet) and at the same time a sign that life must go on. The vendors were somber but also very thankful for those customers who showed up… I noticed that a truck had been parked by the 4th/Arizona entrance and another one at the 2nd/Arizona entrance. I also noticed that people tended to walk to the sides of the street – closer to the booths. A memorial service was held around noon for the victims. Nearby I saw a group of people protesting the fact that the market was open already.

  33. The old man made a statement, through his minister. Not once, not ever did he even slightly apologize. This was a lawyer written statement,if anything. It stated how saddened he was by the horrible accident. It could have been written by anyone of us, not one word of responsibility or regret- he is not accepting blame. Just how his prayers go out to all the ones affected. Geez, it made me not like him one bit – how dare he be looking out for himself instead of at least taking the higher path and accepting responsibility. Eeeek! It felt dirty just reading it.

  34. I am really glad I found this site … and read all your words. It helped me somehow. “another Santa Monica resident”

  35. I can’t believe someone recommended raising the minimum driving age to 21. Screw that. Reduce the age of majority to 16, and the age to vote to 14. Chew on that for a moment.

  36. Doesn’t this all come back to being selfish?

    The elderly person involved is and was selfish. He should have given up driving long ago but that would have inconvenienced him. And now he doesn’t accept responsibility – still selfish.

    But the same goes for all of us. IT shouldn’t be a RIGHT to drive. You should be retested every 5 years between 25 and 60 (see statistics near beginning of thread for the rationale) and every 2 years between 18 and 25 and every 2 years between 60 and 80 and every YEAR after 80. AND you shouldn’t be allowed to drive below the age of 18 – I have still never yet met a teenager (myself included) who displayed good judgement in a car at all times. But this won’t happen. Why? Because we all want the power and convenience of being able to drive.

    One other thing. Why didn’t they use real pedestrian barriers? You shouldn’t be ABLE to drive into a pedestrian area like a farmers market.

    My thoughts and prayers are with those who died and their loved ones.

  37. What is the point of frequent retesting for middle aged people, and especially young people? The reason for old people is that their motor skills, vision, and speed of thought are physically detiorating. Except for that, people don’t suddenly become worse drivers, and retesting every 2-5 years would create a huge amount of overhead for taxpayers. As for selfish – sure, many things are selfish. Why don’t we give up cars entirely, and simply force everyone to walk? Its inconvient, but think of the lives saved! Its best for the community! Think twice before you take away someone’s freedom as a result of your own paranoia. People are going to die. Its not always worth hiding in your house all your life, for that is not truly living.

    For the record, I have been driving since I was 16 (am now 24), and I still have yet to cause an accident. I also didn’t get a ticket till I was 23. People like you were the reason I hated being young. No group of people is more persecuted and less respected or free than the young.

  38. msg: Cars have been vital to the development of the global economy and all its consequences including the medical revolutions of the last century. If you believe cars have caused more harm than good you are being exceedingly short-sighted. Mail me if you want a good bicker about this issue. ****************** Now to be more on-topic, people are saying young/old drivers should take madatory re-tests. I’m a firm believer in everyone taking mandatory re-tests, I know many people young and old that have over the years since their tests developed extremely dangerous driving habits. For instance always driving with one-hand on the gear stick, never glancing at their blind spots, steering with one hand, braking too hard, braking too late, tailing all drivers, speeding instinctively rather than judging the appropriate speed for the conditions, etc. Everyone needs a good prod up the backside every now and again to remind them how to drive safely. ***************** It is silly to stop people driving when they reach a certain age, it is sensible to only let people drive if they are capable drivers.

  39. If the driver was say 25 years of age or younger, chances are they would not have gotten off scot free like this man. Those people didn’t get a chance to live like he is able to get. I don’t think that an elderly man’s physical capibilities serve as an understandable excuse when 10 helpless people were snatched from their god-given right to live. No person could argue that persons under the age of 25 cause a painful number of fatal car accidents, but if you were to up the legal driving age to 30 we’d have a cluster of amature 40-30 year olds wreeking havoc on the streets. My over-all stance is- fatal car accidents are enevitable and Mr. George Weller is guilty of involuntary man slaughter despite his age and condition. Elderly people are not superior to children, infants, teenagers, or adults.

  40. I’m amazed that only one person in this whole conversation (msg) brought up the very existence of automobile culture as possible cause. And he was quickly shot down by someone using “the global economy” as a defense. The first thing that came to my mind when seeing this tragedy on the news was “there’s some more notches on the wall for the auto industry.”

    Growing up in LA and moving to New York city two years ago, there’s no question that the culture of driving, especially in LA is one of the more destructive forces in our country.

    This should be the question, not wether Old People are a danger to us free wheeling your ones with shiny new Jetta’s.

    People drive in New York. These people usually spend most of their time waiting. Since riding my bike, not only do I get places faster, but I’m saving money and in better shape. Obviously this is not really an option in a city like LA where sometimes great distances separate the closest friends. LA is designed around the personal automobile. There’s no place for non motorized transportation, and there are pathetic offerings for public or shared transportation. So if this is by design, one constructive path for looking for solutions would be to bring automobile culture in to the popular rhetoric.

    Cars kill people. We know this. In movies, I would feel safe in saying that the most popular way of creating a dramatic unexpected death or injury is to put a character in a auto accident. This seems perfectly acceptable because auto accidents are so common. Just deal with it already, says the skeptic.

    When I hear about horrible auto accidents, it doesn’t make me sad or contemplative any more, it simply makes me angry that so many are so docile about the forces that not only control our lives, but unapologeticaly take them away.

  41. totally crazy to think how we take for granted something so ordinary as buying fruit or waiting in line, never knowing that we may not finish our todo list that day… ever!

    i was just having a conversation with my dad the other day about driver re-education and americans’ (of any age) general unpreparedness for driving and our unfocused, nonchalant approach to operating a vehicle. wireless phones are the current scapegoat, but before that it was makeup, shaving, kids, hair, lunch, coffee, or that last napkin at the bottom of the glove compartment.

    is the average driver of a 6000-lb suv really qualified to operate such a vehicle? does that one day on the highway in drivers’ ed really prepare us for the freeway system? and then you mix in rain, glare, snow, ice…. burnt out brake lights, ruts in the road, sleep deprivation, 18-wheelers, impatient drivers… elderly drivers… teenage drivers…

    statistics show that airliners are safer than cars, yet flying is permeated with rules and regulations while vehicle operators are free to make whatever mistakes they please – risking all of our lives in the process!

    as madeline albright said, freedom is not convenience. perhaps if we wish to retain our freedom to drive, we should sacrifice some convenience in the name of safety???

  42. One of the victims was my sister in law . That they she decided to go and purchase fresh fruites for her to sons . But god did not permit her to come home to her children . We her family missed her gloria , were ever you are we missed you .

  43. I feel that there should be mandatory drivers-test given every two years to Senior Citicens to help prevent this sort of tragedy. The really aweful thing about this is that this man, George Weller was not under the influence of anything but his own mind. This is a problem we can actually do something about. I hope we all have the courage to accept our responsibility and asses our elderly drivers. They’ll never get better. They’ll only get worse. Thank you

  44. In my heart, as crazy as this may sound….I think he meant to do it….He ‘snapped’ and then proceeded to plow everyone down. If he wanted to stop and the car wasn’t working properly he would have plowed into something to make it stop, instead he just hit everything he could.

    I don’t care how old he is….he just killed 10 people, he needs to be jailed for this crime.

  45. So what’s the news on if charges are going to be filed against Weller or not?

    The CHP was supposed to conclude their investigation and

    decide whether to file manslaughter charges or not?

    Does anyone know?

    I heard he was fleeing an accident at the US Post Office up the street, and freeked out..

    He’s guilty of manslaughter either way..

    If it was a 22 yo kid, he’d be in jail for life!

    Old or Young, killing is killing!

  46. Unfortunately, the same area of the brain that controls knowing direction and having an internal map is the same part of the brain that can recognize deficits (non dominant parietal lobe). Mr. Weller is innocent because by all likelihood he is demented with alzheimers and didn’t realize it. If you really care, please don’t ignore memory loss in elderly loved ones and acquaintances

  47. This site is truly disturbing. I am Geroge Wellers neighbor and I can assure there was no part of this mans’ mind or body the intentionally tried to hurt anyone that horrific day. He has been an outstanding individual donating his time and efforts to turtoring the children of Santa Monica, volunteering at the library, serving as a model citizen. This is the kind of situation where there is no bad guy just a horrible horrible accident. No one would deny the level of sadness of life but people need to realize this man has to live with this day the rest of his life. It breaks my heart each and every time I see him. His pain is evident in his eyes as well as his overall appearance. Shame on anyone who would judge him or accuse him of intentionally causing this accident.

  48. yeah, i can assure you, he didn’t try. i pulled an MVR on him not too long ago, just to see what all showed up. he ran into his own garage door a few months previous to that.

  49. This is to Geroge Wellers’ neighbor…killing as many people as he did goes way beyond a “horrible accident”. The the very least the man is not capable of operating a motor vehicle and should never be allowed to drive again. The car was checked out and there was nothing wrong with it, he just didn’t stop. The man, while he may be this wonderful guy, is a menace and killed people. I can understand a momentary lapse and hitting maybe one person, but he killed and injured dozens and dozens of people. He should have to answer for it.

    Anyone over 65 should have to take a driving test every year or have their license taken away.

  50. This old moron should have known his driving skills were shot.You don’t just all of a sudden mistake the gas for the brake.This guy was a senile old man and his family should have noticed.Its a shame his stupidity robbed two children the right to grow as old as him.

  51. that is really sad i mean, a three year old girl *tear* like we beleive a friggin old person about confusing pedals…lots of stuff like that happens on my birthday, like when the first american spaceship took off… like who friggin cares about me blathering on and on…tis july 16th my birthday.im the only 2005…

  52. Wow. This is terrible. I have wanted elderly driver’s to get tested for some time. Even here in Canada, they are bad. Not only bad they are just downright scary. But then other people, can be just as bad. Such as the 20 year old that ploughed into my mom’s car killing her and critically injuring me. We were just on the highway, on our way home from a medical appointment. Now, I have to live with the fact of seeing my mother die before my eyes, and the fact that I may never be the same as I was before the accident. The girl that ran into us would now be 22 years old, and she has still not been charged. But to put it nicely, I don’t think that sending this girl to jail is going to make anything better. It’s not going to bring my mom back. It happened. It was an accident. The Crown Attorney said that the worst thing that can happen is she can get house arrest. What I think should be done for this young woman, is her driving license should be suspended. Driving a motor vehicle is PRIVELEDGE not a RESPONSIBILITY. Same as for the old man that ran into the farmer’s market. On Saturday October 1/05 it will be 2 years since the death of my mother. The final trial for the girl is November 22/05. Shows just how slow our justice system is here in Canada. I think though, to test everyone they should make mandatory driver’s test for everyone regardless of age. It’s not only senior citizens out there that kill people.

  53. We (Moo Cow Timantha Timmy Timbit and Chicken Bob) beleive that old people should take annual driving tests, but think about it, taxes WILL go up and it isn’t cheep to have annual tests for all the old people who still drive. And also, old people don’t exactly have much money so they’d have to spend money every year just for a test.

    Sincerly,

    Moo Cow Timantha Timmy Timbit

    and Chicken Bob

  54. We as old people feel that we should DRIVE!!!! We love handycapped spots. wait……….what was i talking about? hold on while i go kill some kids and put my teeth back in. adios hooligins

  55. What happend to GeorgeWeller-did he wver go on Trial and if so what did that SOB get? I someone should run over him like he ran over those people and get out of the car and say-Why didn;t they move?)

  56. The case is a default as the prosecutor does not have the elements for a crime which are intent and motive. George Weller’s attorney should file a Default Motion against the Prosecutions case and a Summary judgment. The Defense Attorneys should file a Dismiss Motion and an Acquit Motion. George Weller should have a jury of his peers which are the elderly over 70 years old. Voir Dire the jury and anyone under 70 is off the case.

  57. I just concluded jury duty Friday as an alternate on the trial of George Weller. I’ve been a juror many times but the emotional impact of this trial is more overwhelming than anything I’ve experienced before. Jurors were instructed to keep our emotions in check – very difficult when viewing photos of the victims and when many witnesses, including police and rescue workers, chocked back tears as they testfied while reliving the experience of that day. Even after all I heard and saw during the trial I still cannot imagine the shock and grief felt by survivors, families or other witnesses (even you, Andy – watching from your office window). Although I did not deliberate with the other jurors I believe they reached a just verdict. Mr. Weller may have been a model citizen and surely did not intend to kill and injure those people but he was responsible.

    I guess I’m using this blog as an amonimous therapy session with any readers. I’m sorry to take up the space but at this hour of the morning I just needed a venue to release some feelings. Actually, I may know you Andy… if you attended Burbank High School then you were a friend of my daughter Tracey.

  58. I think it is very sad that this accident happened. I think that all senior citizens should take a road test every two to three years. I will keep the mourning families in my prayers and I hope that eveyone else would do the same.

  59. I think old people should just be off the road. Damn the old people for taking the lives of young people because they feel the need for independence. Everyone knows it, old people have slower reflexes and are just generally stupid. They have no idea what is going on in today’s world. and I saw you return our license at the age of 65 or whenenver you decide to collect social sercurity. They are a HAZARD to our roadways and I cant wail till someone does something to rid them of our highways.

  60. I still believe it was the old man’s fault. Sure he’s old and maybe we are stereotyping, but he is still a murderer. What if those were your children or family members that were killed in the accident? His stupid ass should remain in prison until the day he dies to remember what tragic and horrendous thing he did. Knowing he wasn’t capable of driving anymore cost the life of one too many and could of even cost his own.

  61. I was in the accident, inches from getting hit. As being only 18 at the time, this accident was a very traumatic experience for me, not sleeping for at leat a week.

    People blame this man for the accident, but considering the circumstances, that is ridiculous. We should be blaming the state of california for allowing him to drive.

    Many people do not know that he had already crashed through a child’s birthday party a few years before the Santa Monica accident. Why was he still driving

    We need to make mandatory drive tests for elderly. You can not expect them to give up their licence, such as you can not expect a 16 year old to not get their’s if they are not ready.

    This was a terrible accident, but it still was an accident.

  62. There are two problems with uping the driving age to 21… one being that following this propsal, 21-year-olds will become the inexperienced drivers, and will develop similar accident rates to teenagers. What’s even worse is that people in their twenties rely on driving more so than teenagers and therefore will have to learn to drive out of dire necessity. We’ll have twice as many people driving inexperienced. Secondly, each day hundreds of thousands of teens are using their driving ability to get theirselves to classes on time. Raising the age to 21 would put many college-goers into a difficult situation. Often driving is their only mode of transportation for visiting their families or travelling to work, etc. I may not know, but colleges have gotten much more competitive and difficult than when the people in their 40’s or 50’s were there. These teens need some more credit for what they deal with every day.

    And no doubt everyone was once 16 and remembers what it felt like to finally get that license. Before you know it, we’ll be stopping the next generation from driving at all! Got to learn sometime.

  63. I was nearly killed last year in a car accident caused by an 88 year old woman (I’m 26). She pulled out in front of me on a 55mph highway and I slammed into the side of her car. My passenger and I were both severely injured and still go to physical therapy three times a week. The woman’s car (a huge buick) was still drivable after the crash, and she even tried to flee the scene. She was stopped by witnesses, and she told the police that she never saw me coming. The police report stated that the accident was her fault, but she wasn’t even ticketed! I also found out that this woman has caused four other accidents in the last ten years, one of them fatal. We need to change things now and get all of the incompetant elderly drivers off the road! Too many people have been killed or seriously injured. We need to stop feeling sorry for these idiots and start caring about the victims of there blatant stupidity.

  64. When its not your day to die, its just not your day to die.

    I was there that day. Right there. My son was less than a year old at the time and it was a rarity that he and his father stayed home that day, they’d normally be rushing me along impatiently.

    So I was dawdling, perusing the lovely organic greens and the beautiful melons, working my way up one side of the street stalls and back down the other.

    I am only alive because at that moment, I was looking at Meyer lemons instead of arugula.

    It started with a loud, continuous screeching/scraping noise, and then loud boombangs (the screeching turned out to be the upright poles of the display tents and the tables being dragged across the road surface, the bangs being those structures falling).

    A young couple standing next to me at the lemons stand joined me in glancing up the street towards the growing cacophony that was heading our way. He gently moved in front of her, shielding her with his body instinctively as the disaster careened mere inches from us. We were so close I’m sure I could have touched the vehicle if I reached my arm out.

    My first and only thought was to get home to my child as fast as I possibly could, everything else was suspended in time. I realized I had never let go of my 4 bags of produce. I looked down and saw red smeared on my legs. It seemed to be a combination of strawberries, raspberries, tomato and perhaps blood.

    One minute I remember feeling jealous of a pretty slim girl with Manolo mules on talking on her cell phone. I can clearly remember seeing one of those perfect shoes lying sideways in the middle of the road with no idea where its wearer was who was right in front of me just a moment ago.

    I remember the middle-aged black woman, separated from her teen daughter, distraught and focussed simultaneously as only a mother can be. I’ll never forget the raw sound of relief she uttered as she found and embraced her daughter a few moments later.

    Worst of all, I remember being so close to him in his car, I could see the bodies, one under, one on the hood, and the utter chaos moving along in slow motion. The image of his face with his glasses askew will haunt me for the rest of my life. I could have sworn he looked right at me, he wasn’t even looking forward through the smashed windshield.

    I remember the man running after the car crying and yelling “he just killed my wife”.

    Just today, the accident invaded my life again. As I drove back to my downtown office this afternoon, the pedestrian traffic was quite heavy, and I thought to myself, as I have now and again since that day, “I know exactly what it would look and sound and be like if someone were to just plow through these people”.

    I think about everyone that was there that day and have often wished for just one chance to get together to share our compartmentalized grief, to tell our stories, and to comfort one another in a way noone else can.

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