One woman was killed and seven other people were injured Sunday, when a driver accelerated into an outdoor dining area outside a popular Bay Area dim sum restaurant, striking several seated parties with his SUV.
According to the Bay Area News Group, the crash was reported at 12:27 p.m. on October 11, in the parking lot of San Jose’s Grand Century mall, when a 69-year-old male driver behind the wheel of a 2000 Toyota 4Runner slammed into three women and five men — “all of them sitting at various tables,” KRON 4 reports — as they dined outside Dynasty Chinese, a popular restaurant known for its seafood offerings and dim sum menu.
Vehicle plows into an outdoor dining area in San Jose near Story Road and McLaughlin.— Marianne Favro (@mariannefavro) October 11, 2020
Police say at least 8 people taken to hospital with injuries. pic.twitter.com/bVrvSMyXQu
According to KPIX, the restaurant had not applied for an outdoor dining permit with San Jose’s Al Fresco Dining Program, even though the application process “is virtually automatic.”
Surveillance video from the scene shows the SUV travel over one sidewalk and median, across four lanes of traffic, over another median and sidewalk, and into the tented dining space, which did not appear to be protected by additional barriers. Nanci Klein, Director of San Jose’s Economic Development Office, says the city supplies barriers to restaurants that expand into sidewalks or parking places, but that “outdoor dining that utilizes private parking lots are generally given more leeway in the design of their setups.”
That video is embedded below, but might be upsetting to sensitive viewers.
Mall surveillance video obtained by @KPIXtv shows the SUV jumping two curbs, crossing 4 lanes of traffic, before plowing into outdoor diners at Dynasty Chinese Seafood Restaurant. 2 diners are in critical. SJPD says the 69-year-old driver used the accelerator instead of the brake pic.twitter.com/aporE5GoGA— Betty Yu (@BettyKPIX) October 13, 2020
“The noise when (the 4Runner) went through was like a huge grinding sound because of all the tables and everything caught underneath,” witness John Brown tells BANG. “It was so fast a lot of people didn’t react at first. I saw them go in the ambulances. Everyone was very shocked.”
Speaking with ABC 7, San Jose police Sgt. Christian Camarillo says that the driver, whose name has yet to be released, “thought he was using his brake but accelerated,” speeding into the diners. “The driver stayed there, he’s cooperating with the investigation,” Camarillo says. “We have some things that we have to put together.”
As happened after a series of similar collisions in New York, the crash has some questioning the safety of the swiftly-assembled outdoor dining setups that have popped up across the Bay Area during the pandemic, which shuttered indoor dining in the region for months. (As of publication time, Santa Clara County has yet to set a date for indoor dining’s return.)
“Dining outdoors is dangerous,” one patron of the mall told KPIX, saying that sturdier barriers between diners and drivers are needed. City Councilman Johnny Khamis disagrees, however, saying that small businesses already have to comply with too many regulations during the coronavirus crisis.
“There’s a certain amount of risk in doing outdoor dining,” Khamis says, “And unfortunately, we’ve learned of it. But the fact of the matter is if we don’t allow outdoor dining, these restaurants are going to go out of business.”