SANTA MONICA, Calif. – David Leifer was shopping for tropical fruits when he heard someone scream "Oh my God!" He looked around to see a street full of bleeding people.
Leifer stripped off his shirt and used it to prop up the head of a badly cut woman, then grabbed some oranges to support her legs. It was then he truly noticed the extent of the devastation.
"I had blood all over me," he recalled.
Leifer, like hundreds of others, had been strolling through Santa Monica's (search) farmers market Wednesday afternoon when a Buick sedan came roaring up the downtown street that had been closed off to accommodate vendors.
In the space of seconds, the popular open-air market was transformed into a hospital-morgue. Nine people died and up to 45 others were injured.
Noel Garredo, of Los Angeles, was at his stand heaped with onions, garlic and celery when the car roared by so quickly that all he could see were flying bodies. He dove behind his van for safety.
"I thought it was a tornado because it was lifting and blowing everything," said Garredo, 30.
The twice-weekly market has been a fixture for at least a dozen years in this oceanfront city famous for its gleaming white sand, old-time pier and liberal politics.
The streets were closed to cars while farmers and craftsmen who make the circuit of similar outdoor gatherings offer produce from out-of-town farms and set up portable tables under awnings and tents.
After Wednesday's crash, the tents were collapsed around their twisted metal frames. Handbags and shoes littered the scene.
People rushed from everywhere to help victims. Large orange dropsheets were set out to accommodate the injured. A stream of gurneys rolled patients into a dozen waiting ambulances, as well as waiting helicopters.
Jerry Farias said he had been selling potatoes and melons when he saw the car barreling down on a mother and her child. The woman snatched the child from a stroller.
"She grabbed it as it was coming and she got hit," said Farias. "I saw boxes flying and bodies flying, yelling and screaming."
Mother and child appeared to survive, although the child had a cut on its head.
Hours after the accident, the baby stroller was still in the street.