SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Nation/World

August 5, 2013

Hit-and-run driver accelerated onto LA boardwalk

(Continued)

Hodge said she and her friend, Ashley Taylor, had noted the large number of people walking along the seaside.

“It was a really nice day. There were tons of people out. In fact, we were talking about how packed it was, because we were having a hard time getting through all the people,” Hodge said.

The two women stopped to buy ice cream and a couple of hats, which may have saved their lives. They stepped out of a store as emergency crews arrived.

Hodge saw a man and woman lying next to each other, wearing head braces, barely able to move but grasping hands.

Los Angeles Councilman Mike Bonin said there have been previous problems with motorists accidentally driving onto the boardwalk, especially during the evening, because many entrances aren’t blocked and there are no signs warning them about entering a pedestrian area.

However, four yellow metal poles blocked the roadway used by the hit-and-run driver, who squeezed past the barrier by driving onto a sidewalk, authorities said.

“The frightening part,” Bonin said, was that this part of the boardwalk was “one of the more protected streets.”

The crash was not far from where an elderly driver sped through an open-air farmer’s market in Santa Monica in 2003, killing 10 people and injuring more than 70 others.

Investigators said George Weller, who was 86 at the time, mistakenly stepped on the gas instead of the brake and then panicked. He was doing up to 60 mph when he plowed through the market. Weller was convicted of 10 counts of vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence and was sentenced to probation.

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