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Driver arrested after crash that kills 3, injures others in San Diego

Police outside the tunnel.
Investigators survey the scene of a crash that killed at least three people in downtown San Diego.
(Sam Hodgson / San Diego Union-Tribune)

Three people were killed and several others were injured Monday when a car drove up onto a sidewalk lined with homeless people in tents in a tunnel underneath a San Diego City College plaza, police said.

Police arrested the driver, identified as Craig Martin Voss, 71, of San Diego, on suspicion of nine felony charges: three counts of gross vehicular manslaughter, five counts of injuring someone while committing a felony, and one count of driving while impaired by drugs.

Authorities said Voss was headed westbound on B Street, west of 16th Street, about 9 a.m. when his Volvo veered right and plowed through people on the sidewalk.

Three people died at the scene. Five others were injured — two critically — and a sixth person declined treatment.

San Diego Police Chief David Nisleit said that shortly before the crash, police received a radio call of a possibly impaired driver. The car in that incident matched the car from the crash scene. He also said Voss stopped after the crash and tried to help the victims.

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Authorities believe most or all of the victims — adults whose ages and genders were unavailable — are homeless.

Esteban Hernandez, 46, was sleeping in his tent when he heard screeching tires. Then his tent spun.

Hernandez crawled out to a chaotic scene, where people were screaming for help.

“I just tried to comfort them, let them know it was going to be all right,” he said.

One man Hernandez knew was hurt but breathing. Another was dead. “It wasn’t someone I was really close to, but it still ... it still hurts,” Hernandez said.

The crash happened in a short tunnel in a stretch west of 16th and east of Park Boulevard. The top of the tunnel is known as Curran Plaza and is part of the community college.

San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria acknowledged the rain probably forced unsheltered people to take cover in the tunnel.

“Because of the rain both last night and this morning, we have to assume that more people were congregating there than normal and as a consequence possibly made this even more of a significant tragedy,” he said.

Gloria arrived at the site shortly after the crash, and said the incident highlighted the risk of “allowing our most vulnerable to find housing on our sidewalks as opposed to proper homes.”

He said the city would work to return the belongings from the crash scene to their hospitalized owners. He also said he “will not turn a blind eye to homelessness.”

Police received multiple 911 calls from the scene, and several medics were called to tend to the victims. According to the San Diego Fire-Rescue Department, more than five dozen firefighters were sent, as well as two chaplains.

“It was a very emotional call for everyone who responded,” Fire Chief Colin Stowell said.

Figueroa, Hernandez and Cook write for the San Diego Union-Tribune. UT staff photographer Sam Hodgson contributed to this report.

Updates

1:40 p.m. March 15, 2021: This story has been updated with more information.


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