1 dead, 11 hurt after car plows into prayer meeting at L.A. home

One person was killed and 11 others were injured when a fleeing driver crashed into a Harbor Gateway home where a Bible study group was meeting.

One person was killed and 11 others were injured Wednesday night when a fleeing driver crashed into a Harbor Gateway home where a prayer group was meeting.

The worshippers, who ranged in age from 40s to 80s, had gathered at the small blue house in the 14800 block of South Orchard, as they often did, when a car hopped the curb, smashed into a neighbor’s “for sale” sign and plowed into the living room, where photos of the Virgin Mary hung on the walls.

After slamming into the home at 8:03 p.m., the woman driving the 1999 maroon Buick Regal got out of the car and ran away, said Officer Jane Kim, spokeswoman for the Los Angeles Police Department.

When fire officials arrived to treat the injured, they found the Buick still jammed into the front of the house.


They worked to free some of the men and women who were trapped in the wreckage.

At least five people suffered serious injury, according to Brian Humphrey, Los Angeles Fire Department spokesman. One of the victims dead at an hospital.

Ana Cristobal was sitting in her SUV before leaving for the market with two friends when she saw the car speeding down the road.

“It went straight and landed and crashed into the wall,” Cristobal, 58, recalled.

Cristobal ran across the street with her two friends and heard a group of women, many of them elderly, screaming and crying for help. Some were stuck between the car and the living room wall, she said. Some were bleeding.

“We were trying to move them, but we couldn’t,” she said.

The woman who lives in the home, Cristobal said, is a devout Catholic who hosted prayer groups for neighbors and friends. The woman is retired lives alone, she said.

“I was scared to go inside,” she said. “I tried to pull the car out.”

On Thursday morning, a gaping hole from the crash remained visible.

The home’s wooden beams stood exposed; pillows, drywall and couch cushions were strewn on the floor.

Amanda Escobar stood in her garden with her two dogs Thursday and surveyed the damage from across her home two doors down.

Escobar had been watching President Obama speak on TV at the Democratic National Convention when she heard a loud boom. At first, she thought someone had crashed into her car on the street.

When she looked outside, she saw a car smashed into her neighbor’s home, police and a crowd of people. She watched as authorities pulled a body out of the house.

“I couldn’t sleep,” she said.

Escobar, 79, said she remembers when the owner moved into her home six or seven years ago.

“When she was interested in the house, she asked about the neighborhood,” Escobar said.

Later, after she moved in, the woman threw a housewarming party and invited a priest to bless her home.

Police think the driver — described as being in her 40s and having red hair — lives in the neighborhood, Kim said.

Detectives are looking for the driver, and anyone details about her whereabouts is urged to call LAPD’s South Traffic Division at (323) 421-2500.

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9:40 a.m.: This article was updated with comments from neighbors

This article was originally published at 7:45 a.m.