When a driver plowed into a crowd after a school Christmas concert in Redondo Beach, a boy was trapped under the tire of a car and witnesses scrambled to free him.
"It was a little boy and the left front tire was on top of him," said witness Michael Tovar, 61, of the incident Wednesday night outside St. James Catholic Church.
"I thought it was a jacket lying on the ground."
Tovar, who had just watched his granddaughter sing in the concert, said a man started screaming, “We've got to move the car! We've got to move the car!”
Tovar said that after he helped to free the boy, two men knelt next to the child and covered him. The Lomita man then looked around and saw people he had seen tossed into the air just moments before now receiving care.
Three women were killed and a child and adult critically injured when a car driven by 56-year-old Margo Bronstein ran a red light and plowed into a crowd outside St. James, at the intersection of Vincent Street and Pacific Coast Highway, at about 8 p.m.
Thirteen people, including Bronstein, were injured or killed in the crash. Five children, ages 5 to 14, were among those hurt. One was critically injured, as was an adult.
"Everyone was crossing from the event we were just at," said Tovar, who was stopped at a red light in his car next to the church, the third vehicle back. "All of a sudden, I just saw people flying in the air."
After striking the crowd, Bronstein’s car then collided head-on with a vehicle in the left turn lane next to him, he said.
"My wife started screaming bloody murder, and I jumped out of my car," Tovar said. "I came to the front of my car and saw people scattered everywhere, everywhere."
Three people among the crowd in the crosswalk died. They were identified as Torrance residents Martha Gaza, 36; Mary Anne Wilson, 81; and Saeko Matsumura, 87.
Bronstein, of Redondo Beach, suffered minor injuries and was arrested on suspicion of felony vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated. The driver of the second vehicle also suffered minor injuries, police say.
Redondo Beach police Lt. Joe Hoffman said Thursday that investigators believe Bronstein had prescription drugs in her system after evaluating her at the scene, although no medications were found in car. Police are waiting results from a toxicology report to make a final determination.
According to Department of Motor Vehicles records, Bronstein had a clean driving record. She did, however, have specific driving restrictions, including hand-controlled brakes. She also was required to drive a vehicle with an additional right-side mirror.
One of the five children hurt suffered critical injuries, including head trauma and a bruised lung. Another child, who police said was in stable condition, sustained a broken collarbone.
The other critically injured person was an adult who suffered head trauma and a broken leg. One other adult suffered a broken leg. Others had minor abrasions and complained of pain.
Bronstein is currently jailed on $300,000 bail and is expected to appear in court Friday.
Monica Valencia, director of media relations for the archdiocese of Los Angeles, said children, families and parishioners were receiving counseling at the church Thursday.
“It’s difficult. Everyone is just trying to make sense of something so tragic and incomprehensible,” she said.