A volunteer at the Youth 2011 event in Sacramento narrowly escaped serious injury or death outside the Sacramento Convention Center Wednesday evening (July 27, 2011), when a motorist driving the wrong way crossed the sidewalk, hit the exterior of the building, and careened back onto the street.
Danny Ladines is chair of the Christian education committee at Fellowship United Methodist Church in Vallejo, California and a volunteer chaperone at Youth 2011. He says he had left the Convention Center to phone his mother and son, shortly before 9 p.m. on Wednesday, and was about to reenter when he heard the noise of a crash to his left. His first thought was that someone had hit a parked car, but when he looked that way, he saw a car heading toward him. He says he almost couldn't comprehend what was happening because the car was coming from the wrong direction – against the flow of traffic on J Street, which is one way at that point. However, he instinctively jumped into the corner against the door and, on tiptoe, flattened himself against it as best he could.
"At that time I was waiting for it to hit my knee, but thank God it [passed by] about an inch away," he says.
The vehicle somehow had passed between two trees to cross the usually crowded sidewalk, where it bounced against the building – leaving a bumper with license plate behind – before bearing down on Ladines. It then passed between two other trees and back onto the street, where the driver sped away, still against the flow of traffic.
Police were summoned and took statements from Ladines and other witnesses. Ladines says he was asked if he could describe the driver, but told police, "No, I was just looking at that bumper, wondering when it was going to hit my knee!"
He says police informed him they had apprehended a suspect in the hit and run.
"My first reaction last night was, 'thank God I'm still here,'" Ladines said on Thursday. But afterward, he says, he and his group reflected on what had happened and he cautioned everyone, "Be aware of everything, because you never know."
He finds it interesting that the message of his church's Vacation Bible School last week was, "Be ready with God."
"God is with us on this journey," Ladines says. "When we left from the church [to come to Sacramento] we asked God to join us in this place – and He is with us."