A homeless man who attempted to cross a busy Santa Rosa street Thursday night was struck by a car and taken to Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital with what police said were life-threatening injuries.
The collision occurred just after 6 p.m. on Mendocino Avenue south of Russell Avenue.
Hugh Benjamin Christie, 50, had almost made it across four lanes of traffic before he was struck by a compact Saturn station wagon heading south, Santa Rosa police and witnesses said.
There were no skid marks. The posted speed limit on the road is 40 mph.
"She saw the pedestrian at the last moment," Sgt. Rich Celli said of the driver, whose name was not released.
Six pedestrians have been struck and killed by vehicles in Santa Rosa in the past year. Four of those fatalities involved pedestrians who were intoxicated.
Celli said there were signs Christie had been consuming alcohol prior to him being struck.
Celli said that there were no signs that the driver was drinking; as a matter of routine police were planning to test the driver of the car for the presence of alcohol. He said the woman's daughter, a student at Santa Rosa Junior College, was with her at the time of the crash.
Several pieces of clothing, including a heavy jacket and a shoe, were scattered in the road as officers closed both southbound lanes on Mendocino Avenue to investigate the crash.
The Saturn's windshield on the driver's side was shattered by the force of the impact.
There is no crosswalk in the area where the crash occurred. A street lamp was out, contributing to the dark conditions on the roadway.
Paul Wellines, who described himself as a transient, said he had spoken with Christie minutes before the crash while Christie was sitting on a retaining wall along the east side of Mendocino Avenue drinking a beer.
An empty 24-ounce beer can, pint of vodka and an Almond Joy wrapper were tucked behind the wall beneath a tree.
Wellines, 58, said he's known Christie for years and that his friend often panhandles for money in the area. He said Christie lived in a makeshift camp somewhere close by.
Wellines said he walked to a nearby car wash to plug in an electric coffee pot and make coffee. He said when he returned about 10 minutes later, his was friend lying in the street injured.
"I was coming back to talk to him, but I was too late," Wellines said. "I wish to hell I would have stayed."
"I have no idea why he would cross the street," he added.
About 500 feet south of the retaining wall, Bob Patel was closing his shop, Nichols Company Liquor & Deli.
Patel said he has known Christie for many years and that Christie had come in earlier Thursday evening.
Christie often purchased alcohol at the store but on Thursday only bought candy, Patel said. He asked Christie why and the man told him he'd already purchased alcohol elsewhere.
Patel said he wouldn't have sold alcohol to Christie anyway because it appeared to him that he was drunk. Patel said he has a policy of not selling liquor to inebriated patrons.
Patel said he told Christie to come by the store on Thanksgiving for some food, as he'd done in previous years.