Slumbering students were rousted out of their dorm beds early Wednesday when a car careened out of control and ripped a gas line from the building, authorities said.
Berkeley Police Sgt. Ben Hartnett said the crash took place at Putnam Hall – located at 2345 College Ave. around 3:35 a.m.
“When we arrived, the building was already being evacuated,” he said. “We found the car up against the building. The gas line had been sheared off.”
Tricia Fu was among the 200-plus students who were in the dorm, getting settled in for the opening day of classes on the Berkeley campus Thursday.
“We were playing cards in the lounge room when we heard a screeching and we heard a crash and the building shook,” she told KTVU. “Naturally, we wanted to see what was going on so we started running down the stairs. There were some people on the stairs who told us it was no big deal. To go back to our rooms and shut the window.”
Fu said a strong smell of natural gas was in the building.
“We started smelling it (the gas) even more and the fire alarm went off,” she said. “We all kind of freaked out. People started screaming… People started running out the emergency exit… We left the building…It definitely was nerve-racking. It definitely woke us up. “
The students were forced to evacuate the building for about an hour and allowed to return once PG&E crews arrived on the scene.
UC Berkeley police told KTVU the driver – 22-year-old Douglas Perez – had been taken into custody and may face DUI and hit-and-run charges.
Authorities said Perez left the scene, but returned after talking with his father and turned himself in to police.
Watchdogs are questioning an exclusive agreement between the City of Oakland and a non-profit group, tapped to lead a multi-million dollar project to redevelop the area around the Coliseum BART station.