A 30-year-old Culver City woman was killed and four other people were injured after a vehicle drove into a crowd congregating outside the Church of St. Mark in Venice following a Father’s Day mass Sunday, June 15th.
The group of churchgoers was standing outside the church at 940 Coeur d’Alene Ave., near Naples Avenue in Venice at about 1:15 p.m., when a silver Nissan Xterra suddenly plowed through them, police said.
The SUV struck 30-year-old Cecilia Castillo and pinned a 37-year-old man before coming to rest against a planter and the wall of the church, police said. A 70-year-old woman and a two-year-old girl were also injured in the crash.
The victims were transported to local hospitals for treatment and Castillo later died of her injuries, Los Angeles Police Department spokeswoman Julianne Sohn said.
Castillo was married and had two children, said Father Michael Rocha, Church of St. Mark pastor.
The driver of the SUV told police that she inadvertently stepped on the gas pedal when she turned her attention to her daughter, who had just suffered a seizure, Sohn said.
Neighbors of the church described a chaotic scene following the crash, as people were screaming and frantically calling for emergency services.
“Everyone was aghast. There was a huge crowd of people crying and screaming,” said Ed Colman, who lives across the street from the church and came out after his wife heard the sound of a “several-car collision.”
“People tried to do as much as they could.”
When Colman arrived at the scene he saw several people trying to help the injured victims, including a man who was freed from being pinned underneath the vehicle.
Eight Los Angeles Fire Department companies, including 25 firefighters, were called to the scene to render aid to the victims, said d’Lisa Davies, LAFD spokeswoman.
The man who was pinned under the SUV suffered fractures of the right leg and pelvis, police said. A 70-year-old woman received minor abrasions, another woman suffered a broken tooth and lacerations and a two-year-old girl sustained minor injuries in the crash, police said.
Colman noted how people were congregating just after attending a mass on Father’s Day and “all of a sudden it turned into a horrendous scene.” He added that it was fortunate more people weren’t injured, given the size of the crowd.
Rocha said about 300 people had attended the Spanish language mass and many of them had thankfully left by the time the accident occurred.
“It was a blessing that the crowd had mostly thinned out,” Rocha said. “Everyone was very shocked. There’s been an outpouring of grief in the community.”
Police said the driver of the vehicle was not arrested and there are no charges pending.
The accident is under investigation by the LAPD West Traffic Division.