Vallejo Police search for cause of crash that killed 1, injured 5 others

VALLEJO, Calif. (KTVU) - Vallejo Police say five pedestrians mowed down on the Sonoma Boulevard sidewalk never saw the car coming.

The crash on Friday afternoon, killed one woman and injured two others. Two children, a boy and a girl, were also part of the group that was walking with their backs to the traffic when a 2012 Nissan jumped the curb.

A sixth victim was sitting inside the bus shelter when the runaway car grazed him.

"It rolled over my feet, I felt the tires on top of my foot," Willie Dixon told KTVU, "and then he hit the ladies like pins, like a bowling ball, just swiped them down."

In the moments after the crash, people who were parking or shopping at the stores nearby ran to help the victims.

"I heard him hit the pole and I looked and saw everybody flying," witness Donna Payne told KTVU, "the kid flying, the lady under the car. And I couldn't believe it."

Two women were pinned under the car. One died instantly. The other was conscious and screaming in pain.

A tow-truck driver traveling the opposite direction on Highway 29 saw the commotion and drove across the center median to assist.

"I could see some people stuck under this car," tow operator Dan Stewart told KTVU, "so I swung around and came back and hooked it up."

"He was able to pick up the front of the car," confirmed Vallejo Police Sgt. Michael Nichelini, "and he lifted the vehicle off the pedestrian, maybe saving her life."

Police said the victims were in serious to critical condition. One youngster was flown to Children's Hospital in Oakland. Another child, and the two surviving women, were rushed away by ambulance.

Investigators are looking into witness statements that the driver, a 65-year-old man from Suisun, was seen slumped at his steering wheel at a traffic light before the crash.

Other drivers reported that he didn't respond when the light turned green, and only pulled forward when he was honked at. Seconds later, he careened over the curb, hitting the bus shelter, a pole, and the group of pedestrians. Even then, he didn't stop immediately.

"People were honking and yelling," observer Laura Cortez told KTVU, "and they were screaming at him that he was dragging people, and to stop, stop!"

Witness Gregory Travis shot cell phone video of the driver sitting on the ground after the crash.

"He looked like he was intoxicated," declared Travis, "but he realized what he did. He was hanging his head. And I could tell he heard me when I said the lady was dead."

Investigators say the driver was detained and evaluated for intoxication or possibly a medical condition.

"He seemed to have most of his faculties and seemed to know what was going on, " described Sgt. Nichelini, "but he did not seem particularly distraught."

The driver was released but Nichelini said he could be arrested later.

Willie Dixon, the survivor with a sprained leg and a walking cast, expressed shock that the driver was freed.

"He hit all those people and killed one, and he's out?" exclaimed Dixon.

Police are not releasing the name of the woman who was killed, pending next-of-kin notification.

All in the group were from Vallejo, and some may be members of one family.