Two women injured in the truck-versus-bakery crash just before 8 a.m. Saturday remained in the hospital Monday, with one still listed in fair condition, according to Ron Yukelson, spokesman for Sierra Vista Regional Medical Center in San Luis Obispo.
Five people were injured when an allegedly speeding pickup crashed into two parked cars, sending one of them, a red Mercedes, crashing through the outside wall of the French Corner Bakery and into the dining room, according to the California Highway Patrol and other sources.
The impact of the Mercedes and truck not only tore out most of the wall, it destroyed nearly everything inside the dining room, including the bakery’s glass display case.
The CHP is recommending that the driver, Jeremy Ian Preston, be charged with driving under the influence of a drug, which in this case would be a felony because the crash caused injuries. Preston remained in San Luis Obispo County Jail on Monday, in lieu of $100,000 bail, according to jail records.
Digital Access for only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
The collision occurred on Preston’s 40th birthday.
Cambria artist Ruth Armstrong, a regular morning customer at the bakery, was one of five people hurt in the crash. Her leg was fractured in at least four places, and she underwent 3 1/2 hours of surgery Sunday.
Phil Taylor of Cambria was also injured, as was Ashley “Mac” Van Duzer of Cambria. They were treated and released Saturday.
Elizabeth and Steven Kelly of Camarillo also were injured. On Monday, Elizabeth Kelly remained in Sierra Vista in fair condition.
Just before the accident, Armstrong had sat down in a church pew that provides table seating along the west wall of the dining area, which faces the building’s parking lot.
That wall area is gone now, having been demolished by the crash.
The woman sitting next to me was bleeding all over her head and chest. Mac’s head was bleeding; he needed stitches.
Ruth Armstrong, Cambria resident injured in crash
Armstrong said from her hospital bed Monday that when the truck and Mercedes came through the wall, everything happened in rapid-fire succession.
“There was the sound, the tipping over” of the pew, “flying glass, us being smashed, all happened within a few seconds,” she said.
She remembered looking forward at the floor and the glass flying all around.
“The church pew tipped us over; I think it protected us” somewhat.
Armstrong said all she had time to say was, “What?”
Then “the other people were panicking, shoving things around. The woman sitting next to me was bleeding all over her head and chest. Mac’s head was bleeding; he needed stitches,” she said of Van Duzer.
Bakery employee Jasmin Bucio said she was standing where the vehicles landed, but baker Emmanuel Cosme pulled her out of the way just in time.
“We all thought it was an earthquake,” Cosme said.
Despite the pain and chaos, Armstrong said there was much for which she’s grateful. Emergency responders “were incredibly efficient. They were there within minutes,” she said.
Also, Armstrong’s group of friends that meets regularly at the bakery was either “a little late or a little early,” so the others weren’t there when the accident happened.
The Cambria Fire Department, Cal Fire, Cambria Community Healthcare District, San Luis Ambulance, the county Sheriff’s Office, CHP and California Department of Fish and Wildlife responded to the scene.
Taylor said Saturday night that he thinks “Mac’s Mercedes (one of the vehicles the pickup hit) saved our lives. It slowed the trajectory … it happened so quick. It must have pushed us 6 or 7 feet into the restaurant. All the furniture crashed into us, and the car wound up sideways,” with its front facing the parking lot in place of the wall.
He said he and Van Duzer were partially under the demolished car, but managed to pull themselves out.
“It was claustrophobic. Parts of the wall were sitting on top of our legs,” Taylor said. “Ruth and I were facing each other. I sprained my ankle, broke some ribs and have a lot of bruises.”
Armstrong said that, despite their injuries, “we got out in about five minutes, by shoving the furniture aside and going out the front door,” where they waited for ambulances and other emergency crews to arrive.
She estimated that her recovery “will take a while, but I might be able to go home” Tuesday, depending on pain levels and her ability to walk.
The French Corner
Not surprisingly, the bakery is closed. An engineer and insurance adjuster were due Monday, according to building owner Alvin Ferrer, who also is the owner of and pharmacist at Cambria Drug and Gift next door to the bakery.
Cambria Drug and Gift was closed Saturday and Sunday because power had been turned off for the building. Ferrer had to get documents certifying that it was safe to reopen before electrical service could be restored to that side of the building.
“I’m just thankful that no one got killed,” Ferrer said by phone. “It was so incredibly horrific.”
There’s not a huge amount of structural damage, other than replacing some of the supports.
Paul Ferreira, contractor
Miguel and Lupe Viveros own the French Corner. Miguel Viveros said Monday that “we don’t know yet” when they’ll be able to reopen.
“It all depends on how long it takes us to get back into the kitchen, at least,” he said. “For now, I stored some things at Linn’s,” especially refrigerated items.
Viveros was waiting for updates from his insurance adjuster, structural engineer Bob Mahrt, the county and other officials.
“But it all takes time. It really looks bad in there,” Viveros said.
Contractor Paul Ferreira said Monday that “there’s not a huge amount of structural damage, other than replacing some of the supports” and, of course, rebuilding the wall.
“The rest of the building is considered to be fine,” except for a little bit of damage in the kitchen, such as broken studs and a couple of big mixers that were knocked over by the force of the crash.
Viveros said that his other business, Sandy’s Deli & Bakery, “will be fine, with everything normal,” except for the bakery-made items that the French Corner supplied. He also said he’d spoken to representatives of his wholesale accounts, and they were all understanding.
Meanwhile, according to Viveros and Ferrer, community members have rallied behind the bakery.
“We are in a beautiful community,” Viveros said. “People care.”
Ferrer said he’s gotten “so many phone calls and texts from people who want to help. It’s unbelievable to be part of this community.”