Five hospitalized after SUV plows into crowd

An unlicensed, uninsured 24-year-old woman driving a Ford Explorer careened through a group of people waiting for a bus in Visitacion Valley on Tuesday morning, sending five people to the hospital with serious injuries.

The woman was driving south on San Bruno Avenue near Arleta Avenue just after 9:30 a.m. when she approached a curve in the road. She told police that the steering and brakes on the gray SUV failed, causing the vehicle to cross over to the opposite side of the roadway.

The SUV crashed into a low cement wall at the base of an apartment building, plowed through a group of people standing in a shady spot near a bus stop and came to rest at a chain-link fence bordering a driveway.

The crash injured five people, ranging in age from their 30s to 80s, according to San Francisco General Hospital spokeswoman Rachael Kagan. The injuries included fractured bones, Kagan said. Two of the victims were in critical condition Tuesday afternoon, with the others said to be seriously injured. The driver of the SUV was uninjured in the crash.

Police questioned the driver at the scene but did not immediately press charges.

They impounded the SUV, but would not reveal where or under whose name it is registered.

Police confirmed the unidentified driver, who does not speak English, has neither a driver’s license nor insurance. The San Francisco Police Department will now inspect the vehicle.

“The outcome of the mechanical inspection for sure is something that’s going to be important,” said police spokesman Sgt. Michael Andraychak.

Ed Sandoval, who saw the Ford Explorer coming and moved out of the way, said he talked to the female driver after the crash.

“That poor woman and those poor people,” said Sandoval, who decided not to go to work after the crash. “She was so afraid. I just kept saying, ‘It’s going to be OK. Just wait for police to get here.’”

Aside from whatever caused her to lose control, there are two other conditions that together may have contributed to the number of victims involved in the incident: time and weather.

The scorching heat Tuesday, which was just shy of triple digits in The City, had the crowd awaiting the 9-San Bruno bus standing several feet away from the bus stop in the shade. The sun-bathed bus shelter was unscathed in the incident.

The 911 calls for ambulances also came into the dispatch center at 9:36 a.m. — just minutes before the bus was scheduled to pick up the waiting passengers.

The next step for the case is for police to decide whether to charge the woman.

“She remained at the scene, spoke to officers and was cooperating,” Andraychak said. “I don’t know if we are [pressing charges.]”

kkelkar@sfexaminer.com

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