Ruben Vives in South Los Angeles and Robert J. Lopez, LA Times/LA Now | http://lat.ms/UdDU9l
Photo: Preston Carter, 100, sits in a chair after the accident near Main Street Elementary School. Credit: Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times
August 30, 2012 | 4:02 am :: Victims were being treated at local hospitals after a 100-year-old man backed his car and struck nine children and two adults in South Los Angeles.
Preston Carter struck the victims Wednesday afternoon shortly after classes had let out at the school at 53rd and Main streets, officials said. The victims ranged in age from 14 months to 48 years old. Four of the children were injured seriously but were listed in stable condition Wednesday night.
Carter, who will turn 101 on Sept. 1, has a current driver's license and no history of traffic violations, the California Department of Motor Vehicles said.
Los Angeles Police Department traffic detectives were looking at whether Carter mistakenly hit his accelerator pedal instead of the brake shortly before he rammed into the crowd about 2:30 p.m., a police official said.
Carter was not under the influence of drugs or alcohol as he reversed his car onto 53rd street from the eastern side of a Food 4 Less parking lot and struck the victims, Capt. Jorge Rodriguez of the Los Angeles Police Deaprtment said.
“It was a miscalculation on his part,” Rodriguez said. “He thought he was turning onto the street.”
The issue of older drivers was thrust into the national spotlight in July 2003 when an 86-year-old man plowed into pedestrians at a crowded farmers market in downtown Santa Monica, killing 10 people and injuring 63 others.
In California, all drivers 70 years and older are required to pass a vision and written test every five years, DMV spokesman Mike Marando said. Motorists younger than 70 with clean driving records are eligible for two automatic license renewals every five years before having to appear at a DMV office for a vision test, thumb print and photo.
Carter told reporters at the scene that he “lost control of the car,” explaining that his brakes failed.
At his home Wednesday evening, Carter declined to comment further. His 78-year-old daughter, Ella Fleming, said the family was grateful that no one was killed. She said that her father would not be driving any more and that he was planning to give his car to the family.
“I’m so sorry that it happened,” she told a Times reporter, “and I’m thanking God none of them died.”
●●smf: Back in 2008 I was principal-for-a-day at Main Street Elementary – an excellent school doing great work in a challenged and challenging community. It is a tenuous and temporary connection – but the experience was an uplifting and educational experience for me – and I send my best wishes for speedy and complete recoveries to the injured students – and all the students, parents, faculty and Staff at Main Street ES. ¡Onward/Adelante!