Vehicle crashes into pizza parlor, pinning cashier

In West Menlo Park, car traps cashier after crashing through restaurant window

Medics took a 26-year-old cashier from Avanti Pizza at 3536 Alameda de las Pulgas in West Menlo Park to Stanford Hospital Monday afternoon after a car crashed through the plate-glass window and well into the restaurant.

The female employee became entangled in counter equipment that had rolled on top of her, Chief Harold Schapelhouman of the Menlo Park Fire Protection District said.

The 911 call came in at 1:59 p.m. and elicited an immediate response from firefighters and medics at the fire station on Valparaiso Avenue a few blocks away.

The first order of business was backing the vehicle out to take the pressure off the counter structure and the victim, the chief said. The victim, who lives in Newark, was talking and conscious during the 10 to 15 minutes it took to disentangle her and get her into an ambulance, he said.

She is reported in stable condition, Lt. Ray Lunny of the San Mateo County Sheriff's Office said.

The driver of the vehicle was an 80-year-old Atherton woman who had been trying to park but hit the accelerator instead, CHP Officer Curtis Glace said. She was not hurt.

Glace said that investigators are trying to determine why the driver hit the accelerator, but they do not believe it was intentional, nor was there indication that alcohol or drugs were involved.

Schapelhouman said that officers from the Sheriff's Office and the California Highway Patrol responded to the crash.

The laundry next door suffered collateral flooding damage after the crash ruptured a water pipe that served the entire strip mall. The water is off for all the retailers there, Schapelhouman said.

Given the damage to the counter, plumbing, electrical fixtures and the gas cylinders, Avanti will likely need a building permit and a building inspector's permission before reopening, he said.

"I don't believe they will be able to open very quickly."

The damage in many of these incidents tends to be limited to the front doors and windows, he noted.

"This one was truly and legitimately one of those unfortunate situations when there was injury."

Had it happened during lunchtime, he added, "it would have been a much more chaotic and catastrophic situation."

Bay City News contributed to this report.

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Like this comment
Posted by Question
a resident of Palo Verde
on Nov 1, 2010 at 4:54 pm

Another incident where we must ask if we need to tighten up the law to prevent elderly drivers doing just this.

Like this comment
Posted by drivers test
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Nov 1, 2010 at 4:57 pm

We should have driver's re-tests every 5 years for all drivers. And more frequently for older drivers.

Like this comment
Posted by Elizabeth
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 2, 2010 at 10:36 am

Why a building permit to repair damages? Seems like just another way for the city to make life even more challenging to the business owners... and of course to collect their pound/ton of flesh.

Like this comment
Posted by DCS
a resident of College Terrace
on Nov 2, 2010 at 10:51 am

Building permits are the means by which local governments approve plans and inspect construction in progress to ascertain that the construction will be structurally sound and safe. Without such a system, fires and building collapses (think Haitian earthquake damage) would be much more common.

Like this comment
Posted by Retest
a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 2, 2010 at 11:29 am

Totally agree with retesting periodically to ensure that drivers are competent! There are too many people behind the wheel that shouldn't be.

Like this comment
Posted by Kate
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 2, 2010 at 11:32 am

Was she driving a Toyota product?

Like this comment
Posted by Tom
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 2, 2010 at 11:41 am

Does anyone else find it interesting that neither the victim nor the woman at fault is named? Victims are often not named when there is the potential for embarrassment, but that hardly seems the case here; she was just doing her job, and suffered injuries for it. As for the "80-year-old Atherton woman" -- perhaps that is itself the explanation that we do not have a name. I'm not convinced that the same story happening in other parts of the county would be handled the same way.

Like this comment
Posted by Menlo
a resident of Menlo Park
on Nov 2, 2010 at 11:59 am

Hmmm... Well, I remember this exact thing happening at Laurel School when my kids were young. It was so sad... it was of course unintentional, but luckily none of the kids were harmed. It was an elderly man waiting in the driving pickup line (kids right next to it on the sidewalk next to the wall). Happily it was near the end of pickup and the wall stopped the car. He stepped on the accelerator by accident. When he got out of the car, he could barely walk. Maybe he was just shaken by the incident, but also maybe he shouldn't have been driving.

The elderly don't usually drive far... for groceries, etc. Still, I wonder why she attempted to parallel park? She couldn't walk? Even as a younger oldster in control of my faculties, I try to practice 'preventive parking'. It's just sad... especially that there was a young innocent victim. Sorry.

Like this comment
Posted by rhody
a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 2, 2010 at 12:23 pm

Why assume parallel parking? And maybe it is protetive to leave the cashier and driver unnamed, but why not more information about the car? Was it a Toyota, with their recently publicized gas pedal problem? Was it a very old car? Was it a big car or a compact car? These things may help us understand why the car went so far into the restaurant.

Like this comment
Posted by Schemer
a resident of Menlo Park
on Nov 2, 2010 at 12:27 pm

I heard that older wealthier drivers like to have really big cars and plenty of insurance because they think that combination will keep them safe when they ram into something by mistake.

Like this comment
Posted by Jared Bernstein
a resident of Professorville
on Nov 2, 2010 at 12:41 pm

Names of the driver and the injured person would be helpful. Part of good reporting, or no?

Like this comment
Posted by YIMBY
a resident of University South
on Nov 2, 2010 at 1:36 pm

YIMBY is a registered user.

@Menlo, who wrote: "Still, I wonder why she attempted to parallel park?" I'll go up there tomorrow to check, but are you sure that's parallel parking? I would think it's either angle, or 'straight-in' parking - how else can you explain that her car went directly into the store?
Oh - it was not a Toyota - an Audi. 2006 model.

Like this comment
Posted by emmecj
a resident of Meadow Park
on Nov 2, 2010 at 1:38 pm

it was a "Lux" car.... Lexus perhaps?

The cashier is also a single mother of 2 young children....

Like this comment
Posted by MPcal
a resident of Menlo Park
on Nov 2, 2010 at 1:46 pm

Hmm, didn't someone in a Rolls Royce do the same thing right across the street a few years back? I think it drove into the tennis shop(now Lulu's).

Like this comment
Posted by tom h
a resident of Stanford
on Nov 2, 2010 at 1:55 pm

i would check to see what kind of persription drugs this person is on.
there are alot of people out there on Doctors orders drugs that should not be driving

Like this comment
Posted by stretch
a resident of another community
on Nov 2, 2010 at 2:06 pm

Where I live, the Crime Watch prints the names of all parties, even if they weren't arrested. Everyone who's been caught driving drunk, stealing, or causing accidents (and their ages and city of residence). It makes for interesting reading. My mother took out three storage sheds and a screened porch in her trailer park (she swears something was wrong with the accelerator), and, at age 89, they gave her a license good for 5 years. Way to go, California!

Like this comment
Posted by audi
a resident of College Terrace
on Nov 2, 2010 at 2:15 pm

Mercury-News says the car was an Audi A6, which is an average sized car. Not a compact, but not a boat either. The police say the driver claims she stepped on the accelerator instead of the brake pedal by mistake.

I do not know why the driver was not identified. Maybe she has connections?

Web Link

Like this comment
Posted by Took Mom's car keys
a resident of Ventura
on Nov 2, 2010 at 3:35 pm

A concerned relative can intervene without waiting for the DMV to change their policies.

AAA has resources available to improve driving skills for seniors and information for family members concerned about a relative's driving:
Web Link

After noticing her declining mental cognition, I had my mom's doctor assess her cognitive skills and he reported her to the DMV. She was mad for awhile but I felt relieved she and others were safer with her off the road. She didn't EVER agree she was an unsafe driver! Dementia and denial are close companions.

Like this comment
Posted by Incredulous
a resident of Stanford
on Nov 2, 2010 at 6:29 pm

A senior driver backed into my parked car today in a parking lot and gave the excuse of poor vision!!! I wonder what's he doing behind the wheel of a car... Isn't it necessary to pass a vision test every so often to renew a license, especially if one has known visual impairment?

Like this comment
Posted by Incredulous
a resident of Stanford
on Nov 2, 2010 at 6:30 pm

I meant "what he's".

Like this comment
Posted by carrie
a resident of Menlo Park
on Nov 2, 2010 at 9:09 pm

The names of the people aren't the point. The point is that the shops are too close to the driveway. I have parked here many times and been concerned about this. They need to construct a tasteful cement barrier to separate the driveway from the merchants.

Like this comment
Posted by Senior_Driver
a resident of Downtown North
on Nov 2, 2010 at 9:23 pm

I resent the implication that age had any thing to do with this, uh, unfortunate, um, ah, well anyway, I resent it.

Like this comment
Posted by Observer
a resident of South of Midtown
on Nov 3, 2010 at 3:32 am

I agree about constructing a barrier. Also about the drugs. Drugs should never drive. And yes, test elderly drivers. I've seen some hair raising moves by this crowd. Hope the victim is all right and still has a job. Hope the driver's insurance is going to pay for everything.

Like this comment
Posted by Steve C
a resident of Menlo Park
on Nov 3, 2010 at 9:08 am

Straight in parking, no parallel parking in front of Avanti. Knowing the site pretty well, it's hard to believe that she could jump the curb and keep going all the way into the counter area and hit that as well, but..... If I had to guess, I would suspect she was planning on backing out and put the car in drive instead of reverse. Once you lose control of the car, all bets are off, no matter where you are. Good thing it wasn't a super-sized SUV.
Single mom with two kids, commuting from Newark? The least the woman could do is cover her wages till they make the repairs.
Great Pizza, by the way.

Like this comment
Posted by jardins
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 3, 2010 at 11:22 am

Will a fund be set up to help the victim? Hospitalized with injuries, single mother with 2 small children, lives across the Bay--how long does it take to get through all the disability paperwork before she sees any money to pay for food, utilities, rent/mortgage etc? And who will advise her during this bad time?

Like this comment
Posted by on-the-job injury
a resident of College Terrace
on Nov 3, 2010 at 2:33 pm

I'm all for helping innocent victims. In this case, her employer should be stepping up to help out. And the car driver should pay the rest. Anyone driving German luxury car should have good insurance.

Like this comment
Posted by lol
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Nov 4, 2010 at 1:47 am

waite and drunken driving is a crime...i was almost ran off the road by a white haired old lady....i was come on the opposite direction, if i did not put attention to her it would have been a head on or off to the wall...

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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