The 71-year old driver of the vehicle, a Volvo station wagon, attempted to render aid and identified himself to officers. He has been detained and is being investigated for driving while impaired, San Diego Police Chief David Nisleit said at a news conference.
The driver was cooperative and didn’t try to leave the area, the chief said. Authorities had said earlier that the driver had fled the scene before being detained.
The fire chief said three people died at the scene, and the police chief said at least two people who were taken to the hospital were in critical condition.
The crash happened largely in a downtown tunnel below an underpass where Chief Nisleit says many people were seeking shelter from the rain.
“I don’t know if people were sleeping, if people were sitting there,” Nisleit said. He did not call the area a homeless encampment but said it appeared several tents and personal belongings were placed along the sidewalk.
Police received a radio call several minutes before the crash, about a vehicle matching the description of the Volvo, but officers were not following him at the time of the incident, Nisleit said.
He said the car “for whatever reason, it veered to the right and went completely up onto the sidewalk.” The car went back into the road where it stopped and the driver got out, Nisleit said.
The incident, reported just after 9 a.m. PT, happened in the 1500 block of B Street near San Diego City College.
“I’m like whoa! Is this guy ever gonna stop?” Williams said the driver exited his car and hid his face and “casually walked away.”
Another witness, Michael Luke, told KGTV the driver stayed at the scene and looked distraught.
“I saw the wagon move over and things just started popping up .. and the dragging … Horrific,” said Luke.
The investigation is ongoing.