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BODIES 'TOSSED ... LIKE RAG DOLLS'.

Byline: Michael Gougis and Lisa Sodders Staff Writers

SANTA MONICA - Michael Poisson, general manager at Johnnie's New York Pizzeria, looked up when he heard what sounded like a bomb and saw people ``getting tossed around like rag dolls.''

Not knowing what else to do, he called 911 on his cell phone.

``I was in tears - very shaken up and very shocked,'' Poisson said.

``There was one girl on one of the makeshift tables from the farmers market and her eyes were wide open, and they were trying to resuscitate her, and for some reason that vision is stuck in my head.''

Caroline Roesch saw the car speeding past, knocking bodies out of the way.

``I ran out and I wanted to help them. I grabbed everything I could - some water and some aprons and I covered some bodies,'' said Roesch, a cashier at Acadie Restaurant on Arizona Avenue. ``There was blood everywhere and people screaming.

``It was just the most awful thing I've ever seen in my life.''

The popular Santa Monica farmers market became a scene of carnage Wednesday as a speeding Buick sedan careened down Arizona Avenue, killing nine people and injuring dozens of others as it plowed through crowds of shoppers.

Witnesses said colorful vendors booths and bodies went flying as the maroon 1992 Buick LaSabre accelerated down the street at 1:35 p.m., just 25 minutes before the market was scheduled to shut down. It stopped just short of Ocean and Arizona avenues, its windshield smashed, a body lying on the ground in front of the car.

Izzy Levitansky, 19, of Santa Monica was handing out candles and Jewish literature in the marketplace at the time of the tragedy.

``I heard a noise and I ran and my table went flying,'' he said. ``God saved my life. When I saw this car flying though, I thought it was like 9-11.

``I've never been in Israel, but this is what the bombings looked like. People were running, people were screaming.''

``I heard a car just hit - bang, bang, bang,'' Mojgan Pour, 38, told The Associated Press ``I heard people screaming. By the time I looked, I never even saw the car. I tried to help a man and he died while I was helping him.''

Jessie Moio, 15, of Santa Monica described seeing a woman screaming in terror by a child lying under a yellow sheet. ``We later just saw there was blood all over her white dress,'' Moio told the AP.

Authorities said they received the first 911 call at 1:38 p.m., and that emergency crews began arriving two minutes later. Paramedics set up a triage area on red blankets in the middle of Arizona Avenue, and ambulances lined up at Arizona and Fourth Street, prepared to transport the injured to local hospitals.

Authorities said many of the victims suffered minor to moderate injuries, including broken limbs, lacerations and internal wounds.

Hours after the crash, witnesses remained shaken by what they'd seen.

``I just couldn't believe ... there were babies, elderly people,'' Rony Soussan told KCAL-TV (Channel 9). ``We saw people covered up in blood. It's like a war zone.''

CAPTION(S):

4 photos, box, map

Photo:

(1 -- color) A paramedic wheels an injured woman to a waiting ambulance in Santa Monica on Wednesday after an elderly driver zoomed through a farmers market, striking people and vendor booths.

Charlotte Schmid-Maybach/Staff Photographer

(2 -- 3 -- color) The scene along Arizona Avenue, above, was one of chaos after an elderly driver plowed through lines of vendor booths, right, and hit dozens of vendors and shoppers at the twice-weekly farmers market. Rain broke out about an hour after the incident, making the area slippery.

Jeff Gritchen/Staff Photographer

Gus Ruelas/Staff Photographer

(4 -- color) An injured woman cries out as paramedics wheel her to a waiting ambulance.

Gene Blevins/Special to the Daily News

Box:

FARMERS MARKET DISASTER

Map:

3RD ST. PROMENADE

Jon Gerung and Gregg Miller/Staff Artists
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Jul 17, 2003
Words:662
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