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Car smashes into Petaluma house

  • Petaluma Fire Capt. Kevin Weaver, right, pulls down debris from a house left when a Honda Civic crashed into a home on South McDowell Blvd. Firefighters Luis Chairez, left, and Jimmy Lockner assist. (CRISTA JEREMIASON/THE PRESS DEMOCRAT)

A Petaluma family escaped injury Thursday night when a car slammed through their home's dining room wall, apparently being driven by a man having a medical emergency, police said.

A 12-year-old girl and her mother were home. The father and teen-age boy returned home soon after.

The driver, 63-year-old Aris Mentis of Marin County, was taken to Petaluma Valley Hospital by ambulance, said Petaluma Police Sgt. Jim Stephenson. His condition was unknown. Stephenson said the man's newer Honda Civic was pointed west in a bank parking lot on the east side of South McDowell Boulevard just south of East Washington Street when it shot out of control over the hedges lining the main street.

At speeds of 30 to 40 mph, it crossed a sidewalk, five lanes of usually busy rush-hour traffic, another sidewalk, just missed a large tree and went through a three-foot tall chain link fence and into the rented home's living areas.

“At six o'clock — I can't believe he didn't hit anybody,” Stephenson said. “It's amazing no one inside got hurt. They're very lucky.”

Bill Sorrell said on another night, his family may have been right in the car's path.

“I was driving home and my wife called and said, ‘There's a car in the living room,'” he said. “It very well could have been all of us sitting at the table this time of day.”

His daughter, Gwen, 12, said she was working on her laptop computer when she heard a screeching sound, which isn't unusual given their proximity to one of the city's busiest intersections.

“I heard the car and I fell down,” she said, still shaken a few minutes later. “I screamed at the top of my lungs.”

Her brother Ryan, 17, returned home to find the car almost fully inside his house — which he and his friends photographed and recorded on their phones.

Bill Sorrell said the owner of the adjacent Best Western Petaluma Inn also owns the house. He said they will let his family stay in a room while their place is uninhabitable.

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