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Clergy cope with CA accident

A car driven by an 86-year-old man plowed through a packed farmer's market in Santa Monica Wednesday afternoon.

BY TRAVIS DUNN | SANTA MONICA, Calif. | July 17, 2003

A car driven by an 86-year-old man plowed through a packed farmer's market in Santa Monica Wednesday afternoon, leaving eight people dead at the scene and injuring at least 45 others, according to Lt. Frank Fabrega, spokesman for the Santa Monica Police Department. Another man later died from his injuries.

Fabrega said toxicology tests showed that the driver was not under the influence of alcohol or drugs. While the cause the accident is still under investigation, according to some press accounts the man allegedly said he mistook the gas pedal for the brake. The man, identified in various press reports as Russell Weller, drove for two blocks until his 1992 Buick came to a stop. Some witnesses at the scene said Weller was speeding.

Local clergy plan to hold a meeting today to plan a memorial service, said the Rev. Bill Moss, pastor of the First Christian Church of Santa Monica, which is located on Arizona St., just a few blocks from where the accident occurred.

Moss said he and several other pastors tried to get into the crime scene yesterday, but were turned away.

"Yesterday it was difficult to get through the police lines, which is understandable," he said. "We're not complaining about that."

A few priests dressed in clerical garb were allowed in to provide counseling, he said.


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