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Three people are killed when a car hits nine people in a homeless camp in San Diego.

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Three people are killed when a car hits nine people in a homeless camp in San Diego.
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Three people are killed when a car hits nine people in a homeless camp in San Diego.

Three people are killed when a car hits nine people in a homeless camp in San Diego.

 

Authorities say a car plowed into a sidewalk homeless encampment in downtown San Diego on Monday, killing three people and injuring six others.

Craig Voss, 71, was driving his Volvo station wagon up on the sidewalk shortly after 9 a.m., according to San Diego Police Chief David Nisleit, as he was passing through a tunnel under a community college campus.

Voss was apprehended on the spot. Nisleit said Voss underwent a field sobriety test by a drug recognition specialist and faces three counts of vehicular manslaughter, five counts of causing serious bodily harm, and a felony DUI. He didn’t say if Voss was under the influence of alcohol or any drug, and he didn’t say if he was. He hinted that further charges could be forthcoming.

It was uncertain if Voss had retained the services of a lawyer who might act on his behalf.

The fatal accident shows the inherent dangers that the homeless face in California, where their tents and tarps line not only downtown sidewalks but also along freeway exit ramps.

About 150,000 people are homeless throughout the state. During the coronavirus pandemic, which has thrown the economy into disarray, the number has risen.

Most, if not all, of the nine people who were hit were homeless, according to Mayor Todd Gloria.

Gloria explained, “They were there because they thought they had nowhere else to go.” “This morning’s crash didn’t have to be so serious. “A street is not a home,” I’ll say emphatically.

Three people were killed on the spot. Five of the other six people who were hurt were taken to the hospital. Two of the people were in critical condition. Both were “awake, alert, and answering questions,” according to San Diego Fire Chief Colin Stowell.

The encampment had been there for a while, according to the mayor, who took office in December. On a rainy Monday, more people may have visited the short tunnel beneath the San Diego City College campus because the cement bridge provided shelter.

On a typical weekday morning, the area is bustling with students, but during the coronavirus pandemic, classes have been held online.

Gloria stated that the city must take immediate action to address its homeless problem, and that it would begin by providing shelter to the other homeless people who were in the tunnel but escaped injury on Monday. Only a few people agreed. In addition, the city sent mental health providers to assist.

“We want to make sure that their deaths were not in vain,” Gloria said of the victims.

He did say, however, that the city’s shelters are running out of beds, and he promised to speak to state and federal officials to get more assistance, calling the current situation “inacceptable.”

“It is neither humane nor safe to continue to encourage our unsheltered neighbors to sleep under bridges, alleys, or canyons,” he said.

Lisa Brotzman said she was peering out of a window in her tent just as the car swerved to the right shoulder, “spun out of control” and jumped onto the pavement in the tunnel where people were waiting out the rain.

“Someone was crying, ‘Ahhh! Ahhhh!’” The San Diego Union-Tribune quoted Brotzman as saying. “There were two or three people crying and shouting. It was terrifying.”

Before identifying himself to police, the driver got out of his car and attempted to assist others, according to Nisleit.

“He was compliant (and) did not attempt to escape,” the chief said, rebutting police claims that he had attempted to flee.

The scene was attended by ambulances, five fire engines, a helicopter, and more than 60 first responders.

The fire chief said, “Our crews discovered, evidently, a catastrophic incident under the bridge.”

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