Derek Sonnenfelt, one of two victims crushed by a vehicle at the Junction in Sonora in the past eight months, said Friday pedestrians at the shopping center need more protection.
Sonnenfelt, 33, of Sonora, now uses an Ottobock C-Leg 4 prosthetic following the July 8 accident where a 90-year-old man pinned him against a watermelon display at Price Co. Foods with a 2000 Chevrolet pickup.
“I've never been the type of person to consider myself a victim of anything. I know this was the hand I was dealt,” he said of the above-knee amputation of his right leg.
“As far as The Junction is concerned, maybe we should protect people that are shopping in front of the grocery store when produce is right in front of the parking spot.”
On Wednesday, a Sonora woman sustained major injuries after her legs were crushed between a vehicle and a Wells Fargo ATM machine located a few hundred yards from Price Co. Foods.
The woman was identified by the California Highway Patrol as Linda Cosgrove, 67, of Sonora.
Krista Deans, a spokesperson for Doctors Medical Center in Modesto, said Linda Cosgrove was listed in serious condition at the hospital on Friday morning.
Sonnenfelt said there shouldn’t be a barrier along the entire sidewalk at the Junction, but there should be some protection — either steel bollards, a raised curb or concrete bumpers — in front of where businesses conduct outside services.
“It's the matter of a few thousand dollars to save somebody’s lives and save somebody's legs,” he said. “Those people should have some sort of means between the cars parking there and the concrete walls.”
Margaret Davis, assistant manager The Junction Shopping Center, said she did not know if the installation of pipe bollards at The Junction was feasible, but the owners of the property, who live in the Pacific Palisades, were researching potential safety measures as a result of the recent collision.
Davis added the collision was likely an accident.
“I've been managing this center for 34 years and never had anything happen for the past 6 months,” she said. “Anybody could do it. It could be you, it could be me.”
Pipe bollards, or cylindrical metal pillars, are not commonplace at Sonora shopping centers, except at the front entrance of WalMart in the Crossroads Shopping Center, which has no sidewalk along the parking lot.
Tim Newhoff, property manager for the Sonora Plaza and Timberhills Shopping Center on Mono Way, the Downtown Plaza on Stockton Road and part of the Crossroads Shopping Center, said bollards were used to protect fire hydrants and PG&E equipment.
Newhoff said bollards would be unsightly and expensive.
“You can always pick a center apart or you could go by someone's house and pick it apart. The reality is, how often is there an accident in these centers? A lot of it is just negligence,” he said.
California Highway Patrol - Sonora area Sgt. Dave Chesson said the two accidents likely occurred because the drivers were senior citizens. An officer who investigated Sonnenfelt’s collision believed the 90-year-old driver hit the gas pedal instead of the brake, while in the most recent case, the driver gave a vague statement because she was upset, he said.
“The fault is 100 percent on the person driving the car not driving it properly,” he said.
On Wednesday, Carol Reising, 73, of Tuolumne, was driving a 2005 Kia Optima when she made a left turn into a parking stall.
A witness, Jazper Porter, 28, an employee of Kathy’s Miracle Cleaners, said Wednesday she watched the vehicle pin Cosgrove’s legs against a the ATM.
Cosgrove screamed, the vehicle reversed and Cosgrove collapsed.
On Friday, the ATM outside the bank was boarded over with plywood. Along the sidewalk where the accidents occured, the curbs are approximately 3 inches tall with no concrete bumpers.
Chesson said the CHP offers an Age Well Drive Smart program where seniors can seek new options if it is no longer safe to drive.
“It's a tough conversation with a loved one, but maybe it's time to hang the keys up or maybe driving at night isn't a good idea, whatever it might be,” he said.
Sonnenfelt said he was remaining optimistic despite the injury.
He was learning the physical limitations of the prosthetic and realizing he could no longer be able to take 15 to 20 mile hikes in the Emigrant Wilderness, he said, but he was happy that he was still able to fish at New Melones Reservoir and Lake Tulloch and spend time with his son.
He planned to work up to it, but he said three to four mile hikes would be in his future.
“As long as I can make it to Camp Lake, I’m happy,” he said.