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Jeep Drives Off Top of Downtown Parking Structure, Crashes into McDonald's
By Jorge Casuso
February 23, 2020 -- (Updated) A jeep drove off the top of a Downtown Santa Monica parking structure shortly after midnight Sunday and crashed into the McDonald's across the street, Public Safety officials said.
The driver -- a 20-year-old man from Twentynine Palms -- was transported to a hospital in critical condition, Fire Department officials said.
"Three people were in the vehicle, however, two were able to jump out prior to the vehicle driving off the top of the structure," said Capt. Eric Himler, the Fire Department spokesperson.
"Based on the officer’s investigation, it was learned that the driver had driven his vehicle, a newer model Jeep vehicle, off the top level," said Lt. Joseph Cortez, the Police Department spokesperson.
The Department's Criminal Investigations Division is investigating the cause of the crash, Cortez said.
"Officers have obtained a warrant for the driver’s blood to determine if alcohol or drugs were a factor in the incident," Cortez said in an update Sunday evening.
A total of 15 firefighters responded to the scene and "worked quickly to stabilize the vehicle and extricate one patient," Fire Capt. Himler said.
"Paramedics treated and transported the driver to a local trauma center in critical condition," he said.
Both the top of the parking structure and the McDonald's building at 1540 2nd Street sustained "significant damage," Himler said.
A Building and Safety Department official was called to the scene "to assess the structural integrity of the parking structure," he said.
Police were able to speak to the driver at the scene, according to Cortez.
"The driver was conscious, suffering minor injuries, and speaking with officers when they arrived," he said.
"As a part this ongoing investigation, the Santa Monica Police Department learned that the driver experienced non-visible health issues while under the care of the Santa Monica Fire Department," Cortez said in the update.
The SMFD transported the driver to the UCLA Westwood hospital where he is recovering in stable condition, he said.
Himler said the guardrails normally stop a vehicle from going over the edge.
"It don't know how he got through it," Himler told The Lookout. "We've had other incidents where the wiring catches the car."
In June 2018, a bystander rescued a woman from her car as it precariously dangled from the edge of Parking Structure 5 at 1440 4th Street ("Woman Rescued from Car Dangling from Santa Monica Parking Structure," June 11, 2018).
Sunday's crash comes two days before the City Council is scheduled to vote on a $4.43 million contract to upgrade the guardrails at Structures 1, 2, 4 and 5, which no longer comply with the building code ("City to Enhance Guardrails in Parking Structures Where Suicides Have Taken Place," February 22, 2020).
Five suicides have been committed at Downtown Parking structures over the past two years -- two in Structure 2, two in Structure 4 and one in Structure 7, which along with Structure 8 is at Santa Monica Place.
The upgraded guardrails were first budgeted in Fiscal Year 2016-17 -- a year before the first suicide victim leaped to his death from a rooftop in 2018.
Anyone with information regarding Sunday's incident should call detectives at (310) 458-8941 or the Watch Commander at (310) 458-8491.
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