Editor's note: On Dec. 9 Rose Marie Horgan, 85, was identified as the woman who died in Tuesday's accident, the Santa Clara County Medical Examiner's office said.
The cause of her death was not released so it is still unknown if she experienced a medical event that may have contributed to the accident.
An 85-year-old Cupertino woman died after the car she was driving on Foothill Expressway collided with two separate vehicles, then jumped the center median and crashed into cars waiting at the intersection of Cristo Rey Drive, police said Tuesday.
The multiple-car accident on the Los Altos-Cupertino border near Interstate 280 closed some routes in and around the area and delayed traffic for several hours.
"I was coming home from Trader Joe's going south on Foothill toward Cupertino when this person raced past me so fast—she was doing at least 70 miles-per-hour," said a Cupertino resident who wished to not give her name. "I thought it was a kid out of control, then see the light is red and I knew this person wasn't able to stop."
She watched the car crash into one and swerve off and hit more cars.
"I was helpless, I just had to watch it happen," she said.
It was frightening to this Cupertino eye witness as well as other bystanders.
"It scared me to death," said a senior citizen who did not want to be identified. Speaking in Mandarin, she said she had just pushed the pedestrian button on the traffic signal and was waiting to cross Foothill Boulevard to catch the southbound #51 VTA bus when she saw a car go through the red light and broadside another car, then jump the median and hit the others. The car caught on fire, she said.
The Cupertino witness raced to the car, saw the elderly driver slumped over—leaning toward the passenger seat— and when two other women came to help pull out the driver from the car, the Cupertino witness ran back across the street.
She said she watched as bystanders pulled the woman out of the car and tried CPR, and the Cupertino witness said emergency workers took over to no avail.
The driver of the second car was taken to Stanford Medical Center with serious injuries that were not believed to be life-threatening, said Los Altos Police Captain Andy Galea.
The dead woman, who is not identified pending notification of kin, was driving eastbound on Foothill Expressway when her car first collided with another vehicle between I-280 and Cristo Rey Drive, Galea said.
It was a minor accident, but her car kept going, then ran a red light at Cristo Rey Drive, broadsiding with a convertible that was crossing Foothill Boulevard, Galea said. The woman's car then jumped the median into three other cars waiting at the light on the other side. She died at the scene.
It is unknown why the collisions occured. The cause is under investigation, Galea said, adding that it was possible that some kind of medical event may have precipitated the first crash.
The Cupertino witness said she goes to Trader Joe's almost every day and normally is in the lane—the one on the right—that the elderly driver barreled through. If the witness had been in her usual spot she would have been the first car hit, she said.
For about an hour, there was no southbound access from Highway 280 to Foothill Boulevard, according to Rick Kitson, City of Cupertino spokesman. Police initially closed Foothill Expressway from Homestead Road in Los Altos to Vista Knoll Boulevard in Cupertino from about 12:15 p.m. to 1:30 p.m.
Residents in the nearby neighborhoods of Creston and Oak Valley were asked to travel alternate routes to avoid the intersection of Foothill Boulevard and Cristo Rey Drive.
Editor's note: A few words are needed to clarify cardinal directions in this article. Foothill Expressway turns into Foothill Boulevard in the area where the final collisions took place. The series of accidents apparently started on the Foothill Expressway part of this thoroughfare, which is an east-west route until is turns south by Interstate 280. At that point, it becomes Foothill Boulevard, a north-south thoroughfare.