November 20, 2014

Car Plows Into Crowd Waiting for Food at Adventist Church

Volunteers handing out food to needy people at an Adventist church in California were left shaken after a car plowed into a waiting crowd of people, seriously injuring two.

The accident occurred at the El Cajon Seventh-day Adventist Church on Tuesday evening when a 42-year-old female driver who had collected food inside the church lost control of her car, hitting a parked vehicle and veering into the crowd, police and a church spokesman said.

The car pinned a 74-year-old woman and a 33-year-old woman against a wall, causing serious injuries to their lower bodies, local NBC 7 San Diego television reported.

The two were rushed to the hospital together with the unidentified driver, who suffered minor injuries.

Paramedics also treated a 60-year-old pedestrian for minor injuries at the scene.

“It’s a tragic event. We’re sad that it happened,” said Enno Mueller, communication director for the Adventist Church’s Southeastern California Conference, whose territory includes El Cajon, a city of 102,000.

“The church members are a bit shaken up there,” he said by phone Wednesday.

The El Cajon church, like many Adventist churches worldwide, keeps a food bank of fresh fruit and vegetables, canned and boxed goods, and other items that are available for pickup by people in the community.

The church opened its doors at 4 p.m. Tuesday and the weekly food giveaway was going as normal when the accident happened around 4:20 p.m., local media reported. A church volunteer also was directing traffic in the parking lot.

Police have not decided whether to charge the driver. Alcohol was not believed to have played a role.

Pastor Richard D. Smith said the food giveaway, part of a program called “Soup and Spirituality,” also included a worship service, and attendees prayed for those affected by the accident on Tuesday evening.

“It has been a traumatic day for everyone involved,” Smith told the U-T San Diego newspaper. “We encourage all your readers to lift the families up in prayer.”

In September, a 64-year-old volunteer was struck and killed by an SUV at a food bank run by the Lancing Adventist Church in Michigan. The vehicle's 68-year-old driver hit the volunteer, Sandy Spencer, when he accidentally accelerated as he backed into the church's garage where she was working, according to local media reports. Spencer's husband and another man suffered injuries in the crash.

In El Cajon, the church is considering new measures to provide a safer environment for people waiting in line, but the food giveaway will be held again next Tuesday, Mueller said.

“As traumatic as it was, I am incredibly grateful that the volunteers are so willing to take care of the community,” he said.

Despite Tuesday’s accident, all 230 people waiting for food got served.

Related links

NBC 7 San Diego televison: "Car Plows Into People Waiting for Food Bank Donations"

U-T San Diego newspaper: "Three Women Waiting in Food Line Struck by Car"