One in hospital, two discharged in Auburn restaurant patio crash

Investigation ongoing in effort to determine why SUV plowed into diners
By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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The scene was chaotic after an SUV plowed into a table and three diners outside Tio Pepe Mexican Restaurant on Monday afternoon in Old Town Auburn.

By late Tuesday, one man remained in a Roseville hospital with serious injuries while the other two — one his wife, the other, a visitor from Minnesota they were having a meal with, had been discharged from Sutter Auburn Faith Hospital.

And while it was not business as usual at the restaurant, the business was open as usual Tuesday.

Tio Pepe owner Marissa Corvero said employees were still dealing with emotional reaction to the events that quickly turned a sunny afternoon serving customers on the patio into an tense accident scene, with emergency personnel trying to move a man from underneath an SUV.

“In 29 years here, nothing like this has ever happened,” Corvero said. “We’re sad about what happened and praying for the people involved in the accident. And I’m proud of our employees for immediately calling 9-1-1 and trying to help.”

No names of the victims or the driver of the SUV were being released by Auburn Police on Tuesday as the investigation continued into the cause of the crash. Sgt. Michael Garlock said identities of the four would be released by authorities when investigators have more definitive answers in the case.

The investigation is looking at several possible scenarios and no particular cause had been determined in the crash, Garlock said.

“We want to be as thorough as possible,” he said.

The 2011 Ford Escape SUV first entered the front parking lot in Old Town from off Washington Street. The lot in front of the outside patio has three spaces. But instead of stopping, it continued onto the outdoor patio at an undetermined rate of speed, Garlock said.

Police are saying that the party of three the vehicle struck was composed of a husband and wife, both in their 50s, who recently moved to the Auburn area. They were sitting with a man, in his early 50s, who was visiting from Minnesota. The man from Auburn was pinned under the SUV and was still a patient at Sutter Roseville Medical Center on Tuesday, Garlock said.

The driver of the SUV was described as a woman between ages 65 and 75, who has ties to both the Auburn and Bay areas. After the crash, she was observed sitting in a chair at a neighboring restaurant, holding a small dog and appearing stricken by the situation.

Corvero said the restaurant had five people inside and eight diners outside when the crash occurred at about 2:40 p.m.The woman in the SUV was parking at the front of Tio Pepe to meet a friend inside, she said.

Then the crash occurred, with the vehicle rolling over a planter containing a tree, hitting a table where the three victims sat, and coming to rest on the one man. Two of the first people on the scene were Oscar Guerra, a prospective Tio Pepe employee, and Bootleggers Old Town Tavern and Grille employee Pablo Perez. They tried to lift the vehicle off the man and take leaves from the plant away from his face.

Eventually, rescue personnel would move in to use blocks and a hoist to move the SUV off the man, who was then taken to Roseville hospital by ambulance.