3 dead, 6 injured after car strikes crowd on San Diego sidewalk; 71-year-old driver detained

Emergency crews work at the scene of a deadly accident Monday, March 15, 2021, in San Diego. A driver plowed through a crowd on a sidewalk in downtown San Diego on Monday morning, killing three people and injuring six others. (Photo: Gregory Bull, AP)

SAN DIEGO – A driver plowed through a crowd on a sidewalk in downtown San Diego on Monday morning, killing three people and injuring six others, including two who are hospitalized in critical condition, police said.

The driver – whom authorities identified only as a 71-year-old man — appeared to be driving while impaired when his car suddenly veered off the street shortly after 9 a.m. local time near a community college and went up onto the sidewalk briefly before returning to the road, said San Diego Police Chief David Nisleit.

“For whatever reason, (the driver) veered to the right, went up on the sidewalk, struck multiple pedestrians there and then came back on to the roadway,” Nisleit said

Three people died at the scene. Five of the six others who were injured were taken to hospitals, authorities said.

Nisleit said the driver identified himself to police and he was arrested. The driver was operating a Volvo station wagon, he said.

Nisleit said authorities received a call shortly before the fatal crash about a vehicle matching the description of the one that struck nine people, but he did not identify further details about the call.

“I don’t want to go too much more into that, as we need to interview those citizens that called in to determine if this is the right vehicle. It appears to be (the same one), though,” Nisleit told reporters.

A car involved in a deadly accident sits at the scene Monday, March 15, 2021, in San Diego. A driver plowed through a crowd on a sidewalk in downtown San Diego on Monday morning, killing three people and injuring six others, police said. (Photo: Gregory Bull, AP)

The sidewalk had tents on it. Nisleit said homeless people may have moved under the bridge to get out of the rain just before the car plowed through there.

“I don’t know if people were sleeping or people were sitting there,” he said, adding that authorities scrambling to get people medical help would then turn to finding the answers to those questions.

The driver got out of his car and tried to help people before identifying himself to police, Nisleit said.

“He was cooperative, (and) did not try to run away,” the chief said, correcting earlier reports from police that he had tried to flee.

Multiple ambulances, five fire engines, a helicopter and more than 60 first-responders rushed to the scene near San Diego City College where on a typical weekday morning it is a busy area with students walking by.

“Our crews found, obviously, a tragic incident under the bridge,” San Diego Fire Department Chief Colin Stowell said.

Contributing: Jay Cannon, USA TODAY

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