4Runner Runs Amok

A young man drove his Toyota 4Runner of the road on Cullman Avenue in East Whittier Saturday night, August 7, 2010

A young driver’s Saturday night plans went disastrously awry in East Whittier when he lost control of his Toyota 4Runner and drove it onto the sidewalk and into an embankment as he was turning south onto Cullman Avenue from Candlelight Drive. There were no injuries and little property damage other than to the car.

Homeowners Pat and Gina Smith heard a loud crash, went outside to investigate, and called 911.

The driver was on his way to pick up a friend, Richard Varela. The two were going to a party.  Varela, who lives a block from the crash site,  heard the emergency vehicles — two sheriff’s cars, several Highway Patrol cars, a fire truck and paramedic truck — and found his friend seated on curb, the Toyota on its side on the opposite sidewalk with its headlights still beaming into the darkness,  and a small crowd of neighbors drawn by noise, flashing lights, and crush of emergency vehicles.

“He’s a good kid,” Varela said of the driver. “He’s working on his Eagle Scout.”

“They’ll test him for drugs and alcohol,” suggested a neighbor.

“They won’t find anything,” said Varela.

The driver and his mother, seated on the curb, talk to an officer

A sheriff told the young man he’d been driving recklessly and could have endangered someone, but Gina Smith defended him.

“Two witness say he wasn’t speeding,” she said.

“No harm, no foul,” said another neighbor. “We all make mistakes.”


Gradually the scene sorted itself out. The driver’s mother came. Emergency vehicles began to leave, first the fire department, then the sheriff’s cars and several Highway Patrol cars. A tow truck arrived. The tow truck operator righted the Toyota with a winch, the young man and his mother retrieved their belongings from the car, and the tow truck hauled the Toyota away. The Smiths swept the sidewalk.

“You can do that tomorrow,” someone said.

“No, it’s got to be clear in the morning when Carol takes her walk,” said Pat.

Calm and order were soon restored except for one small palm tree that was left leaning to the side, but I suspect the young man never made it to that party.

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