Police in Redondo Beach, Calif. have arrested a woman on suspicion of being intoxicated after she allegedly hit a group of pedestrians and another car outside a church at the end of its Christmas service, killing three people and critically injuring several others.
KNBC-TV reported that up to 12 people, including five children, were allegedly struck by the woman around 8 p.m. at Vincent Street and Pacific Coast Highway outside of St. James Catholic Church in Redondo Beach. Msgr. Michael Meyers was in the church after children finished singing their final Christmas song.
"They were doing all their Christmas songs for their parents and everybody was just leaving the church, so it was a huge crosswalk full of people," Meyers said.
Redondo Beach police Lt. Shawn Freeman told reporters that Margo Bronstein, 56, was arrested after the crash Wednesday night on suspicion of driving under the influence and vehicular manslaughter. She was taken to the hospital under police custody, according to USA Today.
Police said that Bronstein drove a white sedan north when she ran a red light and supposedly plowed into the pedestrians and hit another vehicle, USA Today reported. Witness Marco Zonno described the scene in graphic detail to KNBC-TV.
"The crosswalk was full and the light was red. Someone ran a red light and... bodies started flying. It was pretty horrible," Zonno said. "They flew at least two or three cars down the street, it was pretty bad. But I'm hoping everybody's going to be OK."
Meyers described the "very difficult scene" near the crash site, which left victims' shoes scattered in the street and where injured victims lined up, waiting for paramedics to arrive.
"Nobody was worrying about the driver at the time, we had so many people on the ground," Meyers told KNBC-TV, adding that Last Rights were administered to some victims at the scene.
The Los Angeles County Coroner identified the deceased victims as Torrance residents Mary Wilson, 81, Saeko Matsumura, 87, and Martha Gaza, 36. KNBC-TV reported that at two people from the dozen injured victims - an adult who suffered head and leg injuries and a child who suffered injuries to the head - were in critical condition Thursday morning.
During a Thursday morning news conference, police confirmed that they are investigating the driver's prescription drug usage. However, police noted that there was no indication the driver was under the influence of alcohol.
Bronstein, who lives in Redondo Beach, is scheduled to appear in court Friday according to KNBC-TV. California DMV records indicated that while her vehicle had modifications for drivers with disabilities, she did not have any prior criminal offenses.
"I know nothing about the woman in this situation," Meyers said. "But we are called to forgiveness and to understand. We cannot live our life in anger and vindication."