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LANGLEY DRIVER HITS PEDESTRIAN, THREE CARS IN DOWNTOWN CRASH

LANGLEY — An out-of-control driver hit a pedestrian and three parked cars in downtown Langley Monday afternoon, pushing one of the cars into the front wall of an Anthes Avenue business.

Witnesses said the driver said his accelerator got stuck before the crash. Many said it was a miracle no one was killed during the afternoon accident, when city sidewalks were bustling with visitors and locals out shopping and enjoying the sun.

“At that time of the day — pray to God no one was hurt or killed,” said Randy Heston, Langley’s acting police chief.

The crash happened just before 3 p.m. when a 62-year-old Langley man in a 1985 Chevrolet Astro Van came speeding down McLeod Alley behind the Star Store. Police declined to immediately identify the driver.

Tom Voorhees was hit just as he stepped into the alley from the parking lot at the Star Store. He didn’t see the Astro Van coming, but he sure heard it.

“It sounded like it was floored,” Voorhees said. “I tried to jump out of his way and didn’t quite make it.”

Voorhees bounced off the van, witnesses said.

“If he would have got me head on, I might have gone under,” said Voorhees, who received scrapes and bumps that police called minor.

Mary-Elizabeth Rosenberg was standing near the alley’s entrance on Anthes, planting a small cypress tree next to her business, Mike’s Place.

The Astro Van came speeding down the alley. It hit a utility box near the Star Store, struck several steel posts near the edges of parking spots, and knocked loose about a half-dozen stones on a raised landscaping bed. It then just missed the light pole next to Langley Clock & Gallery — the pole ripped off the driver’s rear-view mirror — before the van hit a large landscaping rock that knocked out a piece of the gallery’s downspout. The vehicle swept to the other side of the alley and nicked a parked 2002 Honda Passport.

The doors of the speeding van flew open and papers began to fly out, Rosenberg said, as it passed the Chef’s Pantry. It then flew out onto Anthes.

“It was kind of like he was heading to death,” Rosenberg said. “I don’t know how else to describe it.”

“He launched; he went airborne,” she said. “It was like something right out of ‘Die Hard: With a Vengeance.’”

Rosenberg said as the vehicle landed, the back fender dug in — the vehicle left a 2-foot-long gouge in Anthes where it hit — and the left front tire blew out as it hit a manhole cover.

The Astro sped across the street, striking a red 2001 Volkswagen Jetta and a 2003 Chevy Tahoe.

The van pushed the Jetta into the front of Knitty Purls, grinding forward until the Jetta starting to crunch between the building and the Chevrolet. It made those nearby who didn’t see the crash hear it.

Gail Thomas and John Ball were working on the second floor of Good Cheer, sorting donations to the thrift store, when they heard the accident.

The sound of the racing engine, and the crunch of cars, lasted long enough to notice.

“You could hear a forced engine, pushing something,” Ball said.

The two cars parked in front of Knitty Purls were unoccupied at the time of the crash. Passers-by ran to the van to help the driver, who had a cut on his head and may have had other injuries.

The investigation is ongoing, Heston said.

“He was technically placed under arrest for DUI,” Heston said, adding that he was not booked into jail but was released to be taken to Whidbey General Hospital in Coupeville.

“It’s a suspicion of DUI investigation pending results of the toxicology report,” Heston said.

Onlookers said it was nearly a miracle that more people weren’t struck.

“There were four teenagers in the alley,” said Victoria Peloquin of Langley. “I looked up and saw this vehicle screeching – they just barely got out of the way.”

“He was going full speed, as if his accelerator was jammed down the whole way,” she said.

Peloquin said they ran over to help after the van came to a stop.

“He was sitting there, with blood coming off is head, saying ‘I’m sorry, I’m sorry.’ Everybody started yelling, ‘Call 911! Call 911!’”

Peloquin credited her friend’s fast thinking with pulling her out of harm’s way.

“She told me to get out of the way. I don’t think I realized it was an emergency yet,” she said.

“I thought he was going to hit the store,” said Terri Desrosiers of Langley. “He was just screaming down the road.”

Both of the vehicles hit on Anthes were owned by visitors; the Chevy Tahoe is owned by a Guemes Island woman.

Ken Rufo said he and his fiancée, Christine Harold, were shopping on First Street when the visitors came back to find their Jetta pushed into the front of Knitty Purls.

The couple were bringing daughter Helena, who turns 2 in October, back to the car for a nap before heading out for the beach at Useless Bay for some beachcombing.

Rufo said they walked up the street from using the restroom at the Dog House when they saw all the emergency vehicles, police and then, their car.

Now, he said, they were working on getting a ride home to Kenmore. The couple just moved to the area from Georgia so Harold could return home, to take a professor job at the University of Washington.

“We came over to Whidbey in the morning, ate some lunch, did some shopping. Standard touristy stuff.

“We were just here for the day. And we’ll never come back,” Rufo said.

He added that he was joking. “You can’t blame Whidbey Island for something like this.”

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