A suspected drunken driver careened through a “bump-out” Wednesday night on Main Avenue in Durango, sending four people to the hospital, according to the Durango Police Department.
The crash occurred at 9:35 p.m. in the 900 block of Main Avenue, taking out the bump-outs in front of Tequila’s Mexican Restaurant and Maria’s Bookshop, said Sgt. Dave Peterson with the police department.
Four people eating dinner at Tequila’s were taken to Mercy Regional Medical Center, Peterson said. The most serious injury appeared to be a broken leg, he said, but it was later determined the man’s leg was not broken.
A woman driving a black Nissan Altima with New Jersey license plates was taken to the La Plata County Jail on suspicion of drunken driving.
The woman was driving north on Main Avenue when she plowed through the Tequila’s bump-out and then into Maria’s bump-out, which includes a garden area.
A city spokesman identified the driver as Megan Wilmot, 29, of Durango. She was arrested on suspicion of reckless endangerment, four counts of misdemeanor assault, driving under the influence, criminal attempt (hit and run) and operating an uninsured motor vehicle.
She was released Thursday from the La Plata County Jail on $1,500 bail.
Marry Hernandez, manager at Tequila’s, said the restaurant had four tables in the bump-out, but only one table was being used at the time of the crash, with four people at the table.
The city identified the four victims as Karina Lozano, Perla Ramirez, Sabrina Miguez-Ruiz and Jose Sahagun, all residents of Durango. All victims were taken to Mercy, with Sahagun suffering the worst injury, said Mitchell Carter, spokesman with the city. First responders initially thought Sahagun suffered a broken leg, but it was not broken, Carter said.
Witnesses at the scene said Wilmot appeared to be trying to flee the scene of the crash, which is why she is suspected of attempted hit and run.
“They observed her revving her engine trying to get over the debris of the accident, and the witnesses actually removed her from the vehicle so that she could not leave,” Carter said.
The bump-outs are a new feature this summer in downtown Durango that allow restaurants and businesses to provide extra outdoor seating for greater social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic. They extend into the road and are barricaded with metal gates and other traffic-control devices.
In an interview earlier this summer, Durango Police Chief Bob Brammer said one of his greatest fears is that an intoxicated driver might plow through the bump-outs, injuring people.
Earlier this summer, a motorcyclist lost control and clipped part of a bump-out near Carver Brewing Co. before crashing into a light pole.
Tim Walsworth, director of the Durango Business Improvement District, said overall the bump-outs have been a “great asset” for downtown. Business officials and city leaders have talked about bringing the bump-outs back next spring, regardless of whether the coronavirus necessitates social distancing.
“It is very clear that people enjoy the experience of eating outside,” he said.
The BID is also exploring the possibility of making Main Avenue a pedestrian-only zone for a couple of days to evaluate the pros and cons, Walsworth said.
He said the speed limit is 10 mph on Main Avenue while the bump-outs are in place, and it appears that wasn’t being followed.
“Safety is first and foremost,” Walsworth said. “In light of this, that has to be re-evaluated. And by safety, I mean the safety of the patron.”
An employee at Tequila’s said the crash happened in an instant; suddenly a car wiped out the seating area in front of the restaurant.
As of Thursday, Maria’s had repaired its bump-out and people were back to using it. But Tequila’s had not replaced its bump-out, and Hernandez said the restaurant has no immediate plans to set it up again.
“We’re just still trying to process all this,” she said.
The city of Durango is reviewing the crash to determine whether additional safety measures or a redesign are needed moving forward with bump-outs, Carter said.
“Keeping the bump-outs as safe as possible is our main priority,” he said in an email to The Durango Herald.
Carter said the bump-outs have been regarded as a success by businesses, visitors and residents. Some business have said the added space has increase revenue by 15%.
“We are saddened and our sympathy goes out to the victims of this horrible accident,” Carter said in his statement. “We are very fortunate that no one was killed.”