Traffic crash averted by official

A potential traffic tragedy was averted on Monday when a woman whose car would not stop accelerating on Foothill Boulevard was able to stop the vehicle, thanks to the instructions of a Crescenta Valley Sheriff’s Station dispatcher.

The woman, a 40-year-old resident of Sunland, and her daughter, 5, were eastbound on Foothill Boulevard at 10:55 a.m., approaching Sport Chalet Drive, when their car’s accelerator became stuck, forcing the vehicle to move at 20-25 miles per hour.

The woman called 911 from her cell phone, and said, sobbing, “There are cars in front of me and I can't stop.”

The 911 operator patched the woman through to the local Sheriff’s day shift dispatcher, Richard Engersbach. Engersbach was able to talk the woman through the process of shifting her car’s transmission into neutral before turning off the engine.

Sgt. Tracy Stewart of the Crescenta Valley Sheriff’s Station said that because there was no accident or crime, deputies did not investigate the cause of the stuck accelerator. Stewart said that deputies called a tow truck for the woman but did not investigate further.

Although shaken, the woman was able to follow Engersbach’s instructions and her car slowed before its engine died. The car, a Ford Focus, came to a stop before it reached the intersection, resulting in no collision or damage.

Lt. Debra Herman released a statement praising Engersbach’s reaction to the situation.

“Due to his quick thinking and calm demeanor, [Engersbach] helped the caller stop her vehicle, which prevented a serious traffic collision and possibly serious injuries or even death to the caller and her child,” said Herman.

Engersbach said in a statement that the September incident in which a deputy stopped a runaway car in La Crescenta was on his mind when he took the call.

“Knowing that a child was in the car made it that much more urgent that the car be stopped,” said Engersbach. “I am really glad everyone is OK.”

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