An elderly woman was fighting for her life Wednesday night after she and another woman were struck by a car driven by a suspected impaired driver as the pair strolled along a sidewalk in Santa Rosa’s Oakmont subdivision.
Police identified the most seriously injured of the pedestrians as Jackie Simon, 85. She and her companion, 91-year-old Josephine Ross, were both taken to Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital. Both were in critical condition Wednesday night, according to a hospital spokeswoman.
The driver of the car, Gayle Gray, 77, was arrested on suspicion of felony driving under the influence and booked at the Sonoma County Jail.
All three women reside in Oakmont, a quiet retirement community that was dramatically disrupted by the 1:20 p.m. collision, which forced the closure of a busy stretch of Oakmont Drive for hours.
Gray, the driver involved in Wednesday’s collision, had stopped at the Oakmont Village Market to purchase a jar of mayonnaise, pasta sauce and a bottle of wine, according to Sgt. Ryan Corcoran.
She was heading out of the parking lot in her white 1994 Lexus sedan just as Simon and Ross, who had visited a nearby cleaners, were walking by on the sidewalk.
Gray told police that she meant to stop but that she instead stepped on the gas pedal. The ensuing collision sent Simon and Ross sprawling onto the hood of the Lexus. The women were carried between 15 and 20 feet before they were tossed to the asphalt. Corcoran said it was unclear whether either of the women was run over.
Gray’s Lexus jumped the curb at a median dividing the four-lane road, knocking over a road sign before continuing across another two lanes running in the opposite direction of travel. The car jumped another curb and collided with a chain-link fence and dirt berm before coming to rest with its front wheels over the curb.
Corcoran said it’s unclear how fast Gray was driving. He said she “definitely accelerated to get enough momentum to get to the other side” of Oakmont Drive. Police found no skid marks or other indications that she ever applied the brakes.
Gray told police she was distracted by the Jack Russell terrier that was sitting in her lap. According to witnesses, she did not get out of the car to check on Ross and Simon, who lay bleeding in the road. Gray got out of the car only after the first police officer to arrive on the scene instructed her to do so, Corcoran said.
Employees at nearby businesses and passers-by rushed to the women’s aid. Both appeared to be in severe pain. Later, blood stains were visible in the street, along with clothes, medical gear and a pair of broken eyeglasses.
Corcoran said officers suspected that Gray was under the influence of alcohol and prescription medication at the time of collision. He declined to say what led officers to that conclusion, citing the ongoing investigation.
He said Gray refused a breath analysis, so officers obtained a search warrant to draw her blood. It could be several days before the results are known.
In addition to felony DUI, Gray was booked on suspicion of several enhancements, including causing great bodily injury to victims over the age of 70.