December 14, 2010
I took a different route home from work tonight. I decided not to try highway 1 and instead took city streets. I was going to take Water Street, but decided Soquel Avenue would be quicker. As I came down Capitola Road toward 30th Avenue, I noticed a woman and a man crossing the street. Beside the fact that they were 30 feet outside of a nearby crosswalk, there was something weird about the way they were moving. I got a sense she was trying to avoid him. Maybe he was chasing her? She crossed over to my side of the street and he was still in my lane, but several hundred feet in front of me. He was easily going to get to the sidewalk before I drove by.
Then the woman darted back across the street to the opposite side of the road. The man seemed to hesitate in the middle of the road for a second and then turn around and start back after her. There was a strange look about both of them that kept me watching them. I couldn't figure out what they were doing or why they were so erratic in their movements.
I watched him closely as he started to make his way back to the side of the road where they started. He seemed to hesitate before making one last quick move toward the sidewalk where the woman was standing--now with a cell phone to her ear. And then I watched as he was struck and flung into the air by a black car that had just left the green light at the nearby intersection. The sound was awful. I heard it through my closed windows. I watched the victim's body spin--end over end--and crash to the pavement. I can still see it when I close my eyes. I wish I couldn't.
I pulled over and was on my phone dialing 911 within 10 seconds. I waited for all of the traffic to pass before getting out of the van to make my way to the scene. I gave all of the information I could to the 911 operator. As I walked up to the man, now on his back on the sidewalk, I assumed he had likely been killed by the impact with the car.
He was breathing, but it was labored and heavy. He was unconscious, and his body was clearly fighting to keep itself going. He was being attended to by an off-duty firefighter who happened to drive by. It was hard to watch. A few seconds before, this man was the crazy guy in the street. Now I might be witnessing his last moments of life. I asked the firefighter if there was anything I could do, but he said paramedics were on the way and it was best to keep my distance. In the small crowd that had gathered near the victim, I recognized the woman who had been in the road with him. I tried to speak to her, but she did not speak English and began crying when my first question ("Was he chasing you?") was translated to her by another family member. I didn't feel right bothering her anymore. The family member who translated my question said she was the victim's wife. I stepped back a few feet and stood there quietly. Why they were in the road didn't matter any more.
Another woman approached me and asked if I saw the incident. I told her I did and that I had called 911 immediately. "So you saw everything?" she asked. It was the way she asked that made me feel somewhat strange. "So you saw that he came out of nowhere? We didn't even see him." She was the passenger in the car that struck the man. I told her I saw the man dart across the street erratically and that I saw their car strike him. She asked me to stay and talk with the CHP officer, which I had planned to do anyway.
After giving my statement to the CHP officer, I learned that I was the only witness who saw the whole incident. Others may have witnessed the incident, but no one else stopped to give their accounts. I hope someone else will come forward to describe what they saw.
I was on the scene for another few minutes before being excused by the CHP officer who took my statement. I shook the hand of the man who was driving the car that struck the victim and told him I hoped he was ok. He thanked me for stopping and giving my statement. Then, with tears in his eyes, he wished me a Merry Christmas.
I walked by the family of the victim and told them I hoped he would be ok. I didn't know what else to say. We had all watched the same scene. It didn't look good. I can still see it. I wish I couldn't.
Be careful. Be kind to your neighbors. Drive safe.