SAN JOSE -- A mother was critically injured and her daughter briefly buried in rubble that used to be their kitchen when a pair of speeding BMWs went out of control, with one smashing deep into a Leigh Avenue home.
Police said the 40-year-old woman suffered life-threatening injuries in the crash, which happened just before 4 p.m. and attracted a crowd of spectators to the corner of Leigh and Anne Way. Three people in one of the cars were also hospitalized.
Neighbors Stephanie Collins and Lou Soliz heard a noise "like a bomb" and rushed to the scene. Collins, a former emergency medical tech and recent nursing school graduate, saw the woman on her stomach with her torso twisted in an unnatural position and a leg with multiple fractures.
Collins and Soliz, a retired Palo Alto police officer, lifted a window off the woman, who was moaning in pain and crying out for her daughter.
That's when they heard the little girl's terrified wails from within the rubble.
"She was pinned underneath the collapsed roof," Soliz said. "She was stuck in a little hole in the rubble."
Collins, 33, was able to reach into the hole and pull out the 9-year-old girl, who was miraculously unscathed except for a cut from a nail that she got while being extracted.
"When we heard that child crying, we just went to work," Collins said.
Three occupants of the silver BMW that smashed into the house also were transported to the hospital with less severe injuries. The driver of the red sedan, which came to rest against a street sign, declined medical attention.
San Jose fire spokesman Capt. Cleo Doss said arriving crews found a "surreal scene" that was oddly quiet in contrast with the carnage, with nobody screaming or crying. He added that he's never seen a vehicle stuck so deep within a structure.
Police said nobody was immediately taken into custody but they are investigating the cause of the crash and whether the drivers were racing.
Police spokesman Officer Albert Morales said they believe both were traveling at a high rate of speed southbound when both lost control, with one plowing into the home and the other spinning out.
"We have traffic investigators on the scene, taking measurements," he said. "They will also talk to the drivers once they get their medical care."
Neighbors said the stretch of roadway -- a block from Leigh High School -- has its share of racers. As crews used timbers to shore up the home to prevent further collapse, a crowd of residents and students -- including uniformed baseball players from the school -- gathered on surrounding sidewalks, numbering about 100 at its peak.
Matthew Schaffer, who lives about 100 yards from the crash site, said he sees cars speeding down Leigh every day and feels such an accident "was bound to happen."
He petitioned San Jose police to increase traffic enforcement in the area last December, and got a notice saying it was not possible because of low staffing levels.
"I was pretty disappointed, especially because it's right next to a school," he said. "To me it seems that if there's an area they need to focus on, it would be near a school."
Contact Eric Kurhi at 408-920-5852. Follow him at Twitter.com/erickurhi.