A 6-year-old boy is fighting for his life after a warm fall afternoon turned dangerous when a car jumped a curb, trapping him and his twin brother against the wall next to Walgreen's on Santa Cruz Avenue on Thursday (Oct. 17).
Menlo Park police said that as of Friday morning, the boy had survived several hours of surgery and was in critical but stable condition at Stanford Hospital. His twin was relatively unscathed.
The twins are first-graders at Oak Knoll School in Menlo Park.
The driver, a 90-year-old Woodside resident, was in a silver 2012 BMW SUV, according to witnesses.
Adam Creeger, 18, said he heard a noise behind him and turned around to see the car and one boy pinned against the wall.
"Everyone was in a panic," Mr. Creeger said.
Bystanders worked to get the car off the child for several minutes until Roy Thiele-Sardina, who heard the accident while lunching at Bistro Vida, jumped into the BMW and put it in neutral to back the car away.
"I was in the restaurant, about 20 feet away," Mr. Thiele-Sardina said. "We hear this tremendous crash. I mean loud. It didn't move the building, but felt like it did."
After racing outside with the restaurant owner, Ali Elsafy, the men saw the arm of one boy sticking up between the SUV and the wall, with his horrified nanny standing nearby, "losing her mind."
"People were screaming at (the driver) to back up the car. He was just in shock; he wasn't even moving," Mr. Thiele-Sardina said. Bystanders finally coaxed the elderly man out of the SUV. "He literally could not stand."
Mr. Elsafy, described as "the hero in this whole thing," rounded up people to help move the SUV. After the car backed away they discovered the other twin had fallen to the ground.
The driver asked for his walker, and then made a phone call. He offered no comment on what had happened, Mr. Thiele-Sardina said.
A police officer arrived within minutes.
The SUV had an intact windshield and no airbag deployed, according to one witness.
Investigators closed the eastbound lane of the 600 block of Santa Cruz Avenue as they continued to gather information following the accident, which occurred at 2:17 p.m., well into the evening.
The driver has not been charged at this point, according to Police Cmdr. Dave Bertini, as he was licensed and not under the influence of alcohol or other drugs.
In traffic collisions, absent any death associated with negligence or impaired driving, the only crime that has occurred is an infraction, he explained, typically the result of violating a vehicle law. Police officers may not legally issue tickets for infractions that they do not witness; in those cases it will be up to the district attorney to decide whether to proceed with charges.
The driver could be charged with an infraction for driving on the sidewalk if he is found to be at fault, Cmdr. Bertini said.
"In any event, when the investigation is concluded we will be sending the report to the district attorney for review for the infraction violation, in which the punishment can only be a fine. But also be aware, if the driver is found at fault he would be civilly liable and could and would probably be sued in civil court," he said.
California does not have separate licensing standards for senior drivers, according to the Department of Motor Vehicles, but instead looks at every driver's mental and physical ability to comply with traffic laws.
Police ask that witnesses call 330-6300.
Almanac staff writer Dave Boyce contributed to this report.