A 100-year-old man backed his car on to a sidewalk and hit 11 people, including nine children, near a primary school in southern Los Angeles just after classes had ended, authorities in the Californian city said.
Four of the children were injured and in a critical condition when firefighters arrived but their condition became more stable at hospital, city fire captain Jaime Moore said. Everyone was expected to survive, he said.
The blue Cadillac backed slowly into the group of parents and children buying snacks from a street vendor, witnesses said. The crowd banged on the car windows and screamed for the driver to stop, the witnesses said, but some of the children were trapped under the car.
Police said the driver, named as Preston Carter, was co-operating. He was due to turn 101 in a few days, they said.
Asked about hitting the children, Preston said his brakes failed and told a television station: “You know I’m sorry about that. I wouldn’t do that for nothing on Earth. My sympathies for them.”
Carter was pulling out of the grocery store car park but instead of backing into the street he backed on to the sidewalk, police captain George Rodriguez said.
“I think it was a miscalculation on his part. The gentleman is elderly,” Rodriguez said. “Obviously he is going to have some impairment on his decision-making.”
Older drivers have been involved in other US tragedies. In 2003 an 86-year-old man mistakenly stepped on the accelerator pedal of his car instead of the brake and then panicked, ploughing into an open-air market in Santa Monica. Ten people were killed and 63 injured.
According to California’s department of motor vehicles, people aged over 70 must renew their driving licence in person rather than via the internet or by mail. Older drivers can be required to take a supplemental driving test if they fail a vision exam, or if a police officer, a physician or family member raises questions about their ability to drive.
Rodriguez said the collision was being investigated as an accident and Carter was not under arrest. He had a valid driving licence.