Authorities have identified the first fatal victim of the tragic crash that killed three people under a tunnel near San Diego City College in downtown San Diego.
Rodney Diffendal, 40, was identified as one of the people killed on Monday when a driver veered onto the sidewalk and plowed into a group of people, according to the San Diego County Medical Examiner's office. Officials said the driver, who was identified as Craig Voss, 71, was impaired at the time of the crash.
Police described Diffendal as a transient who died of multiple blunt force injuries in the crash.
The tragedy was reported at about 9 a.m. Monday under a tunnel on the 1400 block of B Street. That tunnel is known as a place where homeless San Diegans seek shelter, especially during rainy or gloomy weather like it was the day of the crash.
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One witness told NBC 7 that there were dozens of people taking refuge under the tunnel at the time.
“Probably about 30, 40…30 people,” witness Ronnie Williams said.
Several houseless individuals had their tents and belongings situated under the tunnel on Monday before the crash occurred. Williams said Voss took out three tents with his Volvo station wagon on the sidewalk then a few more afterward.
"It was silent for a second and then it just became very, very loud. Everybody screaming in pain and in agony," he recalled. "You could tell they were hurt, like for real, for real."
A total of nine people were struck by the vehicle, including the three people who were killed. The names of the other fatal victims have not been released, but the San Diego County Medical Examiner's office said in a report that the other two deceased individuals were men ages 61 and 65.
Five people were taken to an area hospital with two patients sustaining critical injuries. Williams told NBC 7 he was also hit by the vehicle but was able to walk away.
Police said Voss identified himself as the driver at the scene before his arrest. He faces charges that include three counts of vehicular manslaughter, five counts of causing great bodily injury while committing a felony, and one count of felony DUI.
Hanan Scrapper with the homeless outreach group PATH, People Assisting the Homeless, said they would help the individuals who were displaced by the crash find access to shelter.
"The street is not a home and this tragedy further highlights the dangers of living on the streets. PATH offers its condolences for the lives lost today," Scrapper said in a statement. "This location has long been known as a gathering place for the unsheltered population and PATH will assist those displaced by the today's crash get access to shelter and services."
San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria echoed that sentiment and reminded the public that anyone experiencing homelessness can call 211 for assistance.
“We can and we will provide shelter to those who need it,” he said. “I want to speak to those without homes in our city – accept the help we are offering. We have beds, we have services, we can connect you with family – and offer you a safe place to stay.”