New Westminster’s Canada Day celebrations took an upsetting turn towards the close of the Queen’s Park festivities when an elderly driver crashed a car into a park bench in the Rose Garden, injuring at least two people – one critically.
News reports about the injuries vary. CBC says four people were hurt in the crash, but the Globe & Mail and Province say only two. All sources agree that a couple in their sixties were hit by the car, and a woman is now in hospital with critical injuries to the head.
Witnesses said the driver seemed to be trying to park her silver SUV, but instead, accelerated straight through the park’s rose garden.
The injured included a man and a woman who were sitting on a park bench. Pat Barnes, who witnessed the accident, said the woman took the brunt of the hit.
“She got hung up on the hood of the car and went with it all the way down over the embankment,” Barnes said, adding the incident could have been much worse.
“It was actually fortunate there was not more people hurt, because there was a lot of people in the rose garden … a lot of people in the park.”
More from The Globe & Mail’s report:
At 2:45 p.m., an elderly woman’s car accelerated from the nearby parking lot, travelled 12 metres across the grass and hit the bench, which was near the middle of the large park.
“The information I received is that the vehicle left the parking area and travelled some 40 feet across grass and struck the bench,” New Westminster police Sergeant Gary Weishaar said. “You think about kids that would have been witnesses to that, and the families.”
Investigators say it is too early to know what caused the crash, though witnesses told CTV it appeared the woman confused the gas and brake pedal.
A mechanical inspection of the car will be carried out Thursday to see if a malfunction played a role in the bizarre crash. The driver, a woman in her 80s, was questioned by police and released into the care of her family. She wasn’t hurt, and Sgt. Weishaar said it was too early to say whether she might be charged.
“Of course, everything’s being looked at,” he said.
Will and I heard about the accident just as we were about to head home from the park, and heard confirmation via @bnu on Twitter (quoting a News1130 radio report) shortly after we got home confirming that a woman suffered “significant” injuries after an elderly driver hit a park bench in Queen’s Park during Canada Day festivities around 3:15 p.m. today. Police said it seems the driver accidentally hit the gas pedal instead of the brake.
In the photo below, you can see the destroyed park bench in the background, behind the police tape barrier:
We passed by the Rose Garden on the way to the van, and snapped a few photos of the scene. As you can tell, any injured folks had already been taken care of by paramedics, and the crash debris had been largely cleared from the scene. A large section of the parking lot and Rose Garden was still cordoned off with yellow police tape, however, and police were taking statements from witnesses. I overheard part of one of these statements, from a former firefighter who said he gave first aid to the crash victim. Many other witnesses and first responders were sharing their stories with partygoers exiting the park.
Our thoughts are with both the driver and the woman injured in the crash.
Thanks to Jocelyn for posting the first report on this, based on a quick phone call from Will as we left the park.