A 48-year-old woman was crushed in her parked car when a wall from a nearby building under demolition collapsed into a quiet Daly City street near the Cow Palace on Monday afternoon.
Workers dug with jackhammers and a track hoe to unearth the woman’s white compact car after coroner’s officials removed her body. “The car was crushed so much you can’t tell what it was,” said T. Mark Lee, safety inspector with North County Fire Authority.
Coroners were not releasing the deceased woman’s identity at press time. Police did not know what she was doing at the site.
Five disabled adults were trapped in their Transmetro Express van, along with their driver, when the wall collapsed onto Rio Verde Avenue, clipping the van’s rear side and bringing down an electrical pole that blocked its exit. They were traveling home from a regular visit to a community center in San Francisco’s Potrero Hill neighborhood when the van was struck by falling debris. Nobody in the van was injured, according to Lee.
“I keep thinking about those poor folks in the van not being able to escape,” said Carol Sloane, public information officer for the Daly City Police Department. “The fear must have been horrible.”
Demolition had begun last week on the building at 2655 Geneva Ave., the site of an El Rancho grocery store that closed in 2001. It had sat vacant for years and was slated for a new mixed-use development with senior housing, according to Daly City Councilwoman Maggie Gomez.
Investigators say it’s too soon to tell why the wall collapsed, but some have guesses. “As far as we can tell, the wall got caught by a gust of wind,” according to Ott Reed, construction supervisor with Pacific Gas and Electric Co.
A family was evacuated from a home to the north, where a remaining wall was in danger of collapsing, according to Lee.
The electrical pole’s collapse knocked out power to 14 customers, as well as to traffic lights along Geneva Avenue between Rio Verde and Mission Street. While some electricity was restored within half an hour, it was expected to be fully restored by midnight, according to PG&E spokeswoman Jana Schuering.
“The lights flickered and went out, and then I heard a boom, like an explosion,” said resident Edgar Morales, who lives not far from the site. “I thought a transformer blew, but when I heard the sirens I figured it was something serious.”
Search dogs with the North County Fire Authority sniffed through the rubble for signs of any more victims, but all construction workers on the site had been accounted for, according to Lee.
Staff Writer Bonnie Eslinger contributed to this report.