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Driver Charged With DUI After 3 Killed, 6 Hurt In Crash Near San Diego City College

San Diego Police roped off the area of a fatal car crash on B Street near San Diego City College, March 15, 2021.
Andrew Bowen
San Diego Police roped off the area of a fatal car crash on B Street near San Diego City College, March 15, 2021.

UPDATE: 3:30 p.m., March 15, 2021

A 71-year-old man was charged with driving under the influence after a crash Monday morning near San Diego City College killed three people and wounded six others, police said.

The crash happened around 9:05 a.m. in the 1400 block of B Street in downtown San Diego when the man veered onto the sidewalk striking nine people, San Diego police Chief David Nisleit said. The area is a known homeless encampment that sits below the bridge over B Street leading to City College.

Driver Charged With DUI After 3 Killed, 6 Hurt In Crash Near San Diego City College
Listen to this story by Andrew Bowen.

“Officers got there and saw multiple people down, multiple people struck by a vehicle,” Nisleit said. “To those families that have passed, my deepest condolences.”

Three people were pronounced dead when paramedics arrived on the scene, San Diego Fire-Rescue Chief Colin Stowell said. Two were transported to UCSD Medical Center in critical condition, two to Sharp Memorial Hospital in serious condition and one to Mercy Hospital with minor injuries. Another person was treated at the scene and released, according to the SDFR incident report.

“Crews did the best they could with the resources there,” Stowell said. “A very tragic and emergency incident that impacts all of us.”

It was an emotional call for all first responders who came to the scene, he said.

Esteban Hernandez was in his tent when the crash occurred, though he said he was not seriously injured. He said the trauma he and other homeless people experience sometimes makes them wonder why they keep on living.

"As bad as we have it, we ask sometimes, 'Why not take us?'" Hernandez said. "Now that I look at it, I'm glad it's not my turn."

Driver Charged With DUI After 3 Killed, 6 Hurt In Crash Near San Diego City College

Most, if not all, of the victims were homeless, San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria told reporters in an afternoon briefing.

“They were (under that bridge) because they felt they had nowhere else they could go,” he said. “This crash this morning did not have to be so devastating. Let me state it very clearly, a street is not a home.”

Gloria used the crash to highlight the need to address homelessness in San Diego. Mental health clinicians were deployed to help those affected by the crash and shelters were offered as well. The city has collected the belongings left at the scene and is working with the hospitals to reunite them with their owners, he said.

“We have beds, we have services. We can connect you to family. We could offer you a safe place to stay,” Gloria said while asking unsheltered individuals to accept help from the city. Those wanting to take the city up on its offer may call 211.

Several minutes before the crash, a person called 911 to report someone possibly driving under the influence about a mile from the scene, Nisleit said. The car, a Volvo station wagon, matched the description of the call but it was too early to determine if this was the same car, he said.

The driver, identified as Craig Voss of San Diego, was heading west on B Street when he veered off the road onto the north end of the sidewalk, Nisleit said. Voss remained at the scene and tried to help those injured, the chief said.

Voss was taken into custody and charged with three counts of vehicular manslaughter, five counts of causing great bodily injury while committing a felony and one count of felony driving under the influence of drugs, Nisleit said in the afternoon briefing.

The driver was cooperating with investigators, he said. Police were also investigating if rain was a factor in the crash. Additional charges may be added later, Nisleit said.

B Street remained closed throughout the day while SDPD’s Accident Investigations Bureau looked into the crash.