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Car Plows Through Calif. Market, Kills 8

July 16, 2003

SANTA MONICA, Calif. (AP) _ A car plowed through a crowded farmers market Wednesday, killing at least eight people and possibly injuring dozens more, authorities said.

Firefighters and ambulances converged on the market area in the oceanside city’s downtown and treated the injured in a large triage area.

Los Angeles County Fire Inspector Edward Osorio said as many as 25 pedestrians were injured.

``We heard there were 25 pedestrians down, through the radio dispatch, though it’s not a definite number,″ Osorio said.

Twisted market tents and crumpled boxes of produce lay smashed on the ground along the path of destruction. TV news reports showed a red car with a smashed front end and damage to its roof. What appeared to be shoes were on its roof.

Witness Rony Soussan told KCAL-TV the driver was speeding. ``He just plowed through (pedestrians) like it was nothing,″ Soussan said.

Ronald Gaba was working at Acadie restaurant on Arizona Street when he heard screams from the sidewalk.

``There was a lot of crying,″ Gaba said. ``I came outside and saw one body covered by a cloth. I can’t describe what is happening, it’s something I’ve never seen before.″

Bystanders had only seconds to react.

``Some people couldn’t even attempt to get out of the way,″ Soussan said. Others were struck by the car and rolled from its hood, he said.

The Wednesday market occupies two blocks along Arizona Avenue, bisecting its popular Third Street pedestrian promenade. It draws thousands of shoppers.

Witness David Allwas told KABC-TV said the driver of the car was a man in his 70s and it looked like he might be having a heart attack.

``His arm was straight on the wheel and his body was stiff,″ Allwas said.

He said he saw as many as a dozen people bleeding and injured.

``I saw it right there, bam. I just missed it by a few seconds. And I was devastated, I couldn’t breathe,″ Allwas said.

``There were people bleeding everywhere. ... There were people crying everywhere,″ he said.

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