San Francisco police say a thief took a stolen construction truck on a wild ride Wednesday morning into oncoming traffic and onto sidewalks, sending pedestrians running for safety.
Investigators say it began with the theft of an A. Ruiz Construction truck from a work site at Haight and Laguna Streets. A number of cars in the immediate area were damaged and a spokesman for the company told KTVU the suspect nearly ran over one of his workers fleeing the site. Several construction workers pursued the alleged thief in other trucks and personal vehicles.
It led to a collision at eastbound Market Street at Van Ness Avenue as one of those trucks blocked the suspect's path. Surveillance video from a Honda dealership shows the truck reversing and backing violently into a limousine to escape pursuers.
"All of a sudden, we heard people screaming and yelling up in front of us," said limousine driver Louis DelCorto. "He just slammed right into me and then tried to get away."
The surveillance video shows the truck veering onto the sidewalk. The driver then headed for Tower Car Wash a few blocks away on South Van Ness Avenue. Downed trees show where the truck drove onto a sidewalk and into the car wash lot.
Customers and workers began running as they heard the commotion.
"He was kind of driving erratically like he was coming at them so they were kind of jumping out of the way," said Tower Car Wash salesman Nevada Wilson. "I kind of turned around and ran, I didn't know if he was gonna come crashing into me."
Surveillance video from the car wash shows the truck striking the open door of Genie Mantzoros' Audi A4, which she brought in for a wash.
"My first reaction was 'Okay, well, another thing for my insurance company to deal with,'" Mantzoros told KTVU. "But then it was, 'Thank goodness nobody got hurt because it could've been very devastating, it didn't seem like this guy was going to stop for anything."
At least half a dozen cars were damaged by the time police pursued the suspect to San Francisco's Civic Center. In the end, a firefighter stopped the suspect when he took off on foot. Tenderloin Station #3 firefighters had monitored the pursuit and positioned their truck as a barricade at Civic Center.
Firefighter Damian Orduna chased and tackled the suspect near a children's playground.
"I made a good tackle. As soon as he goes down, he goes 'I give up,'" said Orduna. "It's not really our job but we work with the police so much it just seemed natural."
Police say no one has stepped forward with injuries after today's incident. The driver, who has not yet been identified, could face charges including hit and run, vehicle theft and reckless driving
On average the L.A. water system is much younger than some Bay Area systems dating back to the Gold Rush era.
So one would expect more water main breaks, more often within the Bay Area. And as water systems succumb to age, the utilities certainly expect that.
But because most utilities are self-insured rate payers will ultimately pay for the damage from such main breaks. That's why major utilities are spending more to speed up replacing old pipes.
More than half of the Bay Area pipes are over 50-years-old, and a great number of them are over 75 years old.
“Our oldest pipes are from the 1860's," says Abby Figueroa, spokeswoman for the Eastbay Municipal Utilities District.
For the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission and Eastbay MUD, many factors go into replacing big lines.
"When you have a good asset management program, you're trying to predict and minimize your risk of failure," says Tyrone Jue spokesman for the SFPUC.
First consider the pipes, their age, their leak history, what kind of metal they're made of and how much water pressure is in them. Next, consider the soils surrounding the pipes. What would an earthquake do? Will the soil corrode the pipe more quickly? Can underground water undermine the pipe? Also, how dense is the population near the pipe? What effect would a break have on transportation? Finally, what are the economic consequences of a break in a specific location?
Eastbay MUD has 4200 miles of main pipelines twenty to sixty-six inches wide.
"About a hundred miles of that of that we have on our critical replacement list," says spokeswoman Figueroa.
Until now all the utility could afford is to ten miles a year.
"We want to quadruple that rate so that we can catch up," says Figueroa.
The bigger the broken pipe, the more time to shut it down.
"Much more difficult to close a 60 inch water main line than a 3 inch line on a city street," Jue said. Snapping valves shut is out of the question.
"Once you snap them shut, you get a water hammer effect, the water hits the wall and it reverberates throughout the rest of the system, causing breaks all over," Jue said.
That's why it sometimes take hours to first reroute the water to impact as few people as possible and only then, slowly close the valves which can be far distances from the break itself.
It was a shocking fatal crash when it happened almost four months ago, but now that the details surrounding the death of a renowned East Bay professor are coming out, the crash is even more stunning.
In fact, the alleged driver should never have been behind the wheel in the first place.
The retired professor, 98-year old Joe Luft, was crossing Sacramento Street at Bancroft Way in Berkeley on April 4th when he was hit by a vehicle.
Police say 56-year old Robert Gilchrist of Oakland was driving north on Sacramento when he hit Luft, who was in the crosswalk at the time.
Investigators say Gilchrist told officers shortly after the accident that he was legally blind.
Further investigation revealed that Gilchrist's license had been suspended in 2000, 14 years before the accident.
"He was an unlicensed driver and shouldn't have been driving," said Berkeley Police spokeswoman, Jennifer Coats.
Despite that, Gilchrist was behind the wheel of his own vehicle and police add that he had a bowl of partially eaten macaroni.
"The driver may have been eating at the time," said Coats.
All this came out this week, when Gilchrist was arraigned on two charges: misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter and driving without a license.
Joe Luft was a psychology professor who taught at Stanford, San Francisco State, and the University of Florence. He was co-creator of the Johari window, a tool used to measure personality.
Even at 98 years of age, he took daily walks, which he had for some 50 years.
The family told KTVU that this has been a difficult and upsetting time and that they just want justice for Joe Luft.
The Ebola outbreak in West Africa has the Peace Corps pulling hundreds of volunteers from the affected areas of Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea.
Two of the organization's volunteers are being kept in isolation after being exposed to a man who later died from Ebola.
"This is clearly a very large outbreak." said Don Francis, an infectious disease expert in the Bay Area, who worked in East Africa during the first Ebola outbreak in the 1970's. "This virus has very high concentrations in the blood, and so you have to be extremely careful taking care of them."
In the last few months, more than 1,200 people in West Africa have been infected with Ebola. That's more than half the number infected in all Ebola outbreaks since the 1970's.
This outbreak is killing 60 percent of those infected.
"If it gets to funerals and hospitals, it goes like crazy!" Francis said. Ebola victims include one American with family ties in Liberia.
"He got it from his sister, who also died from Ebola weeks earlier without them knowing that she had Ebola." said Decontee Sawyer from the couple's Minnesota home. "We're kidding ourselves if we think it can't come to the U.S., and that's another fear of mine."
Sawyer's husband got on a plane before he knew he was infected with Ebola.
This week, the Centers for Disease Control warned doctors to be on the lookout for patients who have traveled to Ebola outbreak areas, in an effort to prevent the spread of the virus.
"It's possible and maybe probable even; but with short incubation, you'd find it very quickly." said Francis.
Oakland City Council meetings will now have police officers present after a distrubance at Tuesday night's gathering.
A man climbed over the speakers table and began complaining about gentrification in West Oakland. Then he charged toward the dais and tried to leap up to where the city council and city manager were sitting.
People at the meeting pulled the man down and escorted him out. No one was hurt.
Police later arrested the man, 20-year-old Dante Cano, for disturbing a public meeting and trespassing. He also has an outstanding warrant.
Councilmembers say they were stunned by his actions.
"It was very startling. I wasn't scared. But I was really startled," said councilwoman Pat Kernighan.
An Oakland assistant police chief happened to be in a room nearby, saw what happened on a tv monitor and called it in.
Council members say Cano has been a disturbance at other meetings.
The incident has sparked debate about security at City Hall.
Police used to be regularly assigned to city council meetings, but that changed to get more officers out on the street.
"We have people in the bulding who are watching the meetings and are there quickly," said Oakland Mayor Jean Quan, who had stepped out to make a phone call when the distutbance happened.
But after what happened last night, police say they will be assigning at least two officers to every council meeting.
Meanwhile, the city has gotten a restraining order against Cano to keep him from attending any more council meetings.