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2 drivers mistake gas pedal for brake, leaving 1 dead and several hospitalized in San Jose

Police investigate the area where a driver slammed into an outdoor dining area at Grand Century Plaza in San Jose on Sunday.
(Randy Vazquez/ Bay Area News Group via AP)

Two car crashes in which authorities say older drivers mistakenly pressed the gas pedal instead of the brake left one person dead and several others injured in San Jose over the weekend, police said.

The first incident occurred around 12:30 p.m. Sunday when a 69-year-old man drove a Toyota 4Runner into a group of people who were dining outside the Grand Century Plaza in the 1100 block of Story Road.

Nine adults were injured in the crash, including the driver, police said. Two people were listed in critical condition Monday morning. Initial reports indicated the driver was in medical distress at the time of the crash, but San Jose police Officer Christian Camarillo said Monday that was not clear.

Witnesses said patrons began screaming and trying to help those who were injured after the crash, in which the SUV plowed into the outdoor dining area of a restaurant set up in the parking lot in order to accommodate coronavirus restrictions.

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“The noise when [the 4Runner] went through was like a huge grinding sound because of all the tables and everything caught underneath,” John Brown, who was staffing a political booth nearby and saw the crash, told the Mercury News. “It was so fast, a lot of people didn’t react at first. I saw them go in the ambulances. Everyone was very shocked.”

Buck Suggs, 54, of San Jose, who was also working at the booth, said he saw the vehicle parked in the lot directly across from the outdoor dining area. Suggs said he heard the engine rev and the tires screech, then saw the vehicle, smoke coming from its tires as it propelled across a two-lane road and a traffic median before crashing into the dining area.

People could be heard screaming, “Get out of the way,” before a loud crashing sound, he said.

About a mile away, an “eerily similar” crash occurred about 6 p.m. on the same stretch of road, Camarillo said.

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An older woman pressed the gas pedal instead of the brake on her Ford F-150 pickup truck, striking a pedestrian and crashing into a food truck and outdoor dining area in the 1000 block of Story Road, police said.

The pedestrian, who was identified by San Jose police as an adult male, died early Monday of his injuries.

The crashes were unrelated, Camarillo said, and are under investigation.

The second of the two crashes was the 38th fatal traffic collision this year, San Jose police said.

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The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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