A family dinner in Jamestown almost turned tragic for one Sonora man and his parents who narrowly escaped harm when a suspected drunk driver went careening down Main Street and smashed into their vehicle before taking out the support pillars in front of three buildings.
Andy Merrill, 29, said he and his parents had just left the Service Station after 9 p.m. Friday and had gotten into their red Honda Accord parked in front of the Quilt Stop at 18258 Main Street when he felt the impact from a Cadillac Northstar that witnesses say was going at least 60 miles per hour.
“I thought we just got rear ended, then there was a second crash,” Merrill said. The balcony of the Quilt Stop building came down on top of their vehicle. “I was like, oh my God, is an earthquake happening or what?”
Merrill said he didn’t see what happened next because he couldn’t see through the balcony and roof overhang on their vehicle after the Cadillac took out the support pillars propping it up.
The driver of the Cadillac reportedly continued along the wooden sidewalk and took out several pillars in front of the Jamestown Community Hall and Service Station before smashing into a parked Jeep Liberty on the opposite side of the street.
According to witnesses, the driver then got out of the vehicle and took off on foot toward Sonora — the same direction from which he came — before being tackled and restrained by several people whom authorities are describing as good Samaritans.
“I couldn’t even get out of the car,” said Merrill, who was sitting in the back seat of the Honda. “There had to be at least eight people who ran over and lifted the deck off of us.”
Merrill said the next thing he saw was a “dogpile of people” across the street in front of Pizza Plus at 18251 Main Street. He walked over and saw several people holding down the suspect, who was complaining about how he was being handled.
“He complained that someone’s knee was in his face,” Merrill said. “At that point, I was pretty livid and said, ‘You know what’s not right? Almost killing me and my family.’”
Merrill said he arrived at the Service Station with his parents a little before 8 p.m. He had a tri-tip sandwich with horseradish sauce, his father, Karl, had fish and chips and his mother, Susan, had a French dip.
They finished their dinner and spent a little time chatting before leaving the restaurant, less than a minute before the crash.
“If we would have left the Service Station like 30 seconds later than we did, we would all probably be dead. We would have been splattered all over the wooden plank sidewalk he went down,” Merrill said.
Merrill, who plays bass in the local Americana band The Risky Biscuits, was uninjured but was checked out at the hospital along with his father. He said his neck, shoulder and ribs feel sore on the left side of his body, but he plans to play with his band at the Strawberry Music Festival in Grass Valley later this week.
No bystanders were injured.
“He’s lucky he didn’t kill anybody,” Merrill said. “I don’t know how or why he drove down the sidewalk, but it’s not just a mistake. This was no accident.”
California Highway Patrol also believes that 20-year-old Addam Smith, of Jamestown, intentionally drove down the sidewalk and arrested him on suspicion of multiple felonies, including driving while under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs, assault with a deadly weapon, criminal threats and vandalism, according to CHP Officer Steve Machado.
Smith was also booked into Tuolumne County Jail on misdemeanor charges of battery on a peace officer, driving on a suspended license and resisting arrest.
“It was an intentional act,” Machado said, but added that Smith did not say what his intentions or motives were.
The Tuolumne County Sheriff’s Office reported that he had a .09 blood alcohol content when he was tested during the booking process, which was several hours after the actual crash occurred. Machado said investigating officers are still waiting for test results to see if he had anything else in his system.
Machado described the incident as “unusual.”
Smith was on bail over the weekend, according to jail records. He was arrested last month with a 38-year-old Jamestown woman on several felony drug and weapon charges after they were accused by Sonora police of attempting to sell marijuana online.
The Sonora Police Department reported that two guns, ammunition, 27 ounces of marijuana and more than 3 ounces of methamphetamine were found during a search of the couple’s apartment.
A child living at the apartment, whom police reported was the couple’s, was also taken into protective custody by Child Welfare Services.
Meher Patel, owner of the Royal Carriage Inn across the street from the Service Station, described the incident on Friday night as “worse than a scene from a movie.” Nevertheless, she said the mess was quickly cleaned up overnight because Saturday was the annual Rods to Rails car show in Jamestown.
“It was just sheer luck that nobody had their old cars parked out there,” she said.
A customer at the inn asked Patel if it was an unsafe neighborhood, but she said that it’s typically quiet and peaceful on Main Street in Jamestown.
The Service Station posted a Facebook message that stated the restaurant would be open on Saturday. They are closed Monday through Wednesday and one of the owners couldn’t be immediately reached for comment.
Mark Dyken, director of the Jamestown Family Resource Center, also posted on Facebook that they had to cancel a breakfast planned for Saturday morning at the Jamestown Community Hall due to the building damage.
Ed Hoag, facilities manager for the county, could not be reached for comment about the damage to the hall.
Employees of the Sonora-based Baughn Electric, LLC, were working on Monday to restore power to the building that houses the Quilt Stop and an upstairs apartment.
Bud Carroll, the owner of the building, said the tenants were not at the apartment when the incident happened but one of their relatives was there and had planned to go out on the balcony just before the Cadillac took it down.
Carroll said they are insured with State Farm, which is working to get more information on the suspect. Carroll and his wife, who runs the Quilt Stop, have owned the building for about two years and live in Jamestown.
“I pulled in from the Oakdale side of (Highway) 108 and literally didn’t recognize the building, “ he said. “We were lucky it didn’t do damage to the inside.”
Contact Alex MacLean at firstname.lastname@example.org or (209) 588-4530.