Four people were taken to the hospital after an elderly driver slammed her Subaru Forester through—and into—the popular Jambo Café just before lunch Thursday.
"I can't believe how lucky we were," manager Vince Onchaga told SFR. "It's just before our busy time." Onchaga was standing behind the bar in the restaurant's front room when the car came crashing through the front window, plowed into several tables and came to rest just a few feet from him.
Santa Fe police say none of the injuries are immediately life-threatening. They include broken legs and a sore back. The driver, a woman police say was in her 80s, was at Christus St. Vincent hospital for observation on Thursday afternoon.
"There's no way she should have been driving," said Santa Fe Police Sgt. Chris McCord, lead investigator in the crash.
Police think the woman was disoriented. Kitchen manager Swaleh Obo agreed.
"All the employees were running out the back door," Obo said, "and I ran to the front to see what happened. She was still in the car, sitting there with her foot on the accelerator and her hands on the steering wheel." Obo took the woman out of the car and switched off the ignition.
Bill Ramsay and his wife were eating lunch inside the restaurant when the car crashed through the next room. The couple is vacationing from Lincoln, Nebraska, and they were meeting friends at Jambo.
"I just had my first sip of beer," Ramsay told SFR while standing outside the restaurant. "It's probably still on the table."
The Ramsays and their friends hustled out the back door along with the kitchen workers. They walked around the front of the Cerrillos Road shopping center to see the damage. Ramsay was not expecting to count his car, parked a good 50 feet away from the restaurant, among the casualties.
"She hit me hard enough to push my car into this car next to it," he said, gesturing to the marks his tires left as the Subaru slid it sideways into the Infiniti sedan parked beside him.
"It sounded like an explosion," said Loretta Brand. The Infiniti belongs to her daughter, Melissa Sanchez. The pair was up from Albuquerque for the day, shopping at the Payless ShoeSource next door. "Everybody all along the front of the shopping center ran out to see what happened. I think people worried the car might explode."
Police estimate the damage to the building to be at least $20,000.
Santa Fe has seen several such crashes in recent years, the most serious of which killed three people when Rachel Ruiz drove her truck into the Concentra urgent care clinic in the shopping center at 720 St. Michaels Dr. in March 2006. In December 2014, Joey Cano told police he was trying to use his cell phone when he plowed into the Pizza 9 at 1965 Cerrillos Rd. No one was injured in that crash. During Spanish Market last year, the passenger in a Chevy Traverse was killed when the driver slammed into a wall of the parking lot next to the Lensic Theater in Downtown.
Jambo owners posted on its Facebook page that they plan to serve lunch Friday from a food truck parked in front of the restaurant.