PALO ALTO -- Five pedestrians were hurt -- one seriously -- when a man in his 90s trying to parallel park in front of the University Cafe in downtown Palo Alto accidentally gunned the accelerator, hit a parked car and drove onto the crowded lunchtime sidewalk, according to police.
The man struck the pedestrians with his 2010 Nissan four-door sedan, police reported. Four of the pedestrians and the driver sustained minor injuries but were taken to a hospital for treatment, as was the seriously injured pedestrian.
The driver was going slow when he "accidentally accelerated," police spokeswoman Marianna Villascusa said.
She said the victims were all adults. "Just like any lunchtime, it was extremely busy" on University Avenue, Villascusa said.
According to police, its 24-hour dispatch center received multiple 911 calls at 12:36 p.m. about a car that had driven into a building in the 200 block of University Avenue.
Police asked the public to avoid the area because University was closed due to an investigation, which is being handled by the police Specialized Traffic Accident Reconstruction team.
"There is no indication at this point that either drugs or alcohol played a part in this incident," according to the Police Department's news release. "The driver has not been arrested or cited at this early juncture."
"I thought a bomb went off or someone was shot because it sounded like an explosion and there was a lot of shattered glass all around," Marina Gorbis, executive director of Institute For The Future, wrote in an email. "I was about 10 feet away and saw two men on the ground, obviously injured. People rushed to help the man on the ground, who seemed to be conscious. The other man next to him seemed to be in shock. Didn't see the driver or the car or what was happening on that side. Once police and ambulance came we were all asked to leave the restaurant through the back door, so I didn't see much else. Still am in shock."
Palo Alto resident Paul Stadnisk was sitting on a bench with his back to the cafe when he suddenly heard tires screeching and "the sound of metal crunching and glass breaking."
West Tapia, a Palo Alto resident who works across the street from the restaurant, said he heard "a loud bang" and the sound of "tables smashing into each other."
When he rushed over to see what happened "it looked like the people he (driver) came in contact with were way worse off than he was," Tapia said. "People were on the ground."
Anyone with information about the accident is urged to contact the police dispatch center at 650-329-2413. Anonymous tips can be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org or sent via text message or voice mail to 650-383-8984.
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Mercury News writer Lisa Krieger contributed to this report.