SANTA ROSA, Calif. - A Santa Rosa amputee is lucky to be alive after a vehicle hit and dragged him 60 feet while in his wheelchair.
Police said Juventino Abarca, 68, remains hospitalized with serious injuries, but he is expected to survive.
"He was in a lot of pain, confusion, and shock," said Sgt. Chris Mahurin, noting that Abarca was able to talk to paramedics who responded to the scene at 6:30 a.m. Tuesday.
The crash happened at the intersection of North Dutton Avenue and Sebastopol Road, two busy cross-town arteries. The area also has steady foot traffic, with housing and retail nearby.
Police said Abarca waited until the walk signal flashed before rolling onto Dutton Avenue. Not even halfway through the crosswalk, a GMC pickup truck knocked him down and dragged his motorized chair down the street.
"I think by the time Abarca was in the crosswalk, it was too late, the driver was trying to slam the brakes," said Mahurin, identifying the driver as Edwin Valle Morales, 29.
The intersection features blinking yellow turn arrows that permit left turns as long as drivers yield to oncoming cars and people crossing.
Morales told police he didn't see the man in the wheelchair until he was on top of him.
"By the time he realizes he hit somebody he's slamming the brakes, but he's already been moving 20 to 30 feet at that point," said Mahurin.
Abarca and his chair were dragged 60 feet before finally coming to a stop.
Morales stayed at the scene and was cooperative, showing no signs of impairment.
Police expressed thanks to witnesses who ran to Abarca's aid and called 911.
"He is really kind, a really kind guy. He would bring us stuff sometimes from the store," said Brisa Luna, 11, whose mom rents a nearby room to Abarca.
Lidea Luna said he often has trouble making ends meet and frequently panhandles outside Lola's Market at the intersection.
"He suffers a lot," said Luna. She added the "because he doesn't have a foot, he suffers a lot."
Police said the collision points to how important it is for drivers to scan for pedestrians.
"Always look at the corners before you make turns because you'll see if someone's waiting to go into the crosswalk," said Mahurin.
Residents in the area said they appreciate the reminder.
"Since this incident happened I really want to be more conscious of who's around and what's going on at all times," said Mikey Johnson as he shopped at Lola Market.
His father wonders if the signal, inviting drivers to turn, puts pedestrians at too much risk.
"I think they should have it where they walk first, then turn," said Michael Johnson Sr.
"Maybe they should set up those traffic monitors to study what the timing is and if they need to adjust the speed or anything like that," he said.
Police said Morales was traveling at about 20 mph when he hit Abarca.
"It is a very busy intersecton and we've had a lot of crashes here over the years," Mahurin said.
Pending the outcome of the investigation, Morales may be cited for failure to yield.
"They were both really lucky," said Mahurin, noting the crash could easily have been fatal."The driver gets a second chance to drive safely without injuring someone severely, and the guy in the wheelchair is alive so that's great."