Almanac

News - October 23, 2013

90-year-old driver ordered to test for license after horrific crash

by Sandy Brundage

The 90-year-old driver whose car jumped a curb in downtown Menlo Park and pinned twin 6-year-old boys against a wall is without a license — at least for now.

One twin emerged from the crash with a broken arm, while his brother was reported Monday in serious but stable condition at Stanford Hospital, following several hours of surgery after the Oct. 17 accident. The brothers are first-graders at Oak Knoll School.

Menlo Park Police Cmdr. Dave Bertini said officers took the license and issued a priority re-examination notice. The driver "has five business days to contact the DMV office of driver safety to set up an appointment to be retested," Cmdr. Bertini said. "If he does not do so his license would be suspended."

The police department does not currently know if the driver has followed through, he said.

Police are refusing to identify the driver at this point, which is standard practice when someone has not been charged. Police would not confirm anything about his occupation.

The driver, a 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 witnessed the accident from a nearby restaurant, jumped into the BMW and put it in neutral to back it away.

The SUV had an intact windshield and no airbag deployed, according to bystanders. The driver had blood on his hands.

Investigators closed the eastbound lane of the 600 block of Santa Cruz Avenue well into the evening as they continued to gather information following the accident, which occurred at 2:17 p.m.

The driver has not been charged at this point since he was licensed and not under the influence of alcohol or other drugs, according to Cmdr. Dave Bertini.

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 did 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. A misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter charge could also be brought in the case of a death.

"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," Cmdr. Bertini 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.

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