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Double-parked

Joan Bunte wasn’t expecting a crowd during her Monday evening grocery run to Trader Joe’s in Claremont, nor what greeted her in front of the store. Perched atop a silver Lexus in the parking lot was a man behind the wheel of Honda Accord.

Claremont police are investigating a 2-car crash that gives new meaning to the term double-decker. No one was injured and no arrests were made in the bizarre pileup that took place around 6:30 p.m.

According to witnesses, Claremont resident Rod Kamitsuka backed his 1994 Honda Accord out of a parking spot and the car suddenly lurched forward, flattening a handicapped parking sign. Police say the sign served as a ramp for the vehicle, which came to rest on the top of a 1998 Lexus SC 300 owned by Claremont resident Ruth Chung.

Ms. Chung had been shopping at Trader Joe’s when she heard a loud noise. She was shocked to find that her car was the source of the noise. Employees at the market provided her with a chair and several people tried to provide comfort.

“She was just shaking like a leaf,” said Ms. Bunte, who came to Ms. Chung’s aid even though they had never met.

Ms. Chung was visibly upset by the destruction of her car, which she said had only 60,000 miles.

“It’s almost a classic,” she said of her silver 2-door sports car.

Witnesses claimed Mr. Kamitsuka seemed in a big hurry when he left the Trader Joe’s parking lot. One witness claimed Mr. Kamitsuka had backed out of his parking spot and screeched to a halt after bumping another car. He then allegedly threw his car into drive and sped forward.

However, Mr. Kamitsuka disputed the accusations, claiming that his accelerator became stuck and he lost control.

Mr. Kamitsuka was forced to remain atop Ms. Chung’s vehicle until emergency crews could help him down. By that time the crowds had gathered in throngs.

“It reminded me of being in a show, there were so many people gathered around taking pictures,” said Claremont resident Tracey Stoll of her topsy-turvy trip to the market.

A half-hour dash into Trader Joe’s turned into an hour and a half long excursion for Ms. Stoll, who was inside the store when the crash took place. After hearing about the commotion from other grocery patrons, Ms. Stoll decided to see things for herself.

“I was in disbelief,” she said. “It was like seeing a Photoshopped picture. It was sort of uncanny.”

Ms. Stoll watched as police helped Mr. Kamitsuka slide down from his vehicle to safe ground and as 2 tow truck drivers from S&J hooked up the Honda to a hydraulic pulley to dislodge it from the top of the Lexus.

“When they were finished getting it off the top, everyone cheered,” Ms. Stoll recalled. “One of the guys did a brief bow.”

Emergency crews responded to the scene but Mr. Kamitsuka refused treatment. Trader Joe’s team members came to Ms. Chung’s aid, keeping her groceries in the fridge so they wouldn’t thaw, while another offered to take photos of the crash for Ms. Chung.

“[The crash] was just the weirdest thing, but to see the community rally for her even though no one even knew each other...it was truly surreal to see that,” Ms. Bunte said.

A resident of a nearby condominum complex, Ms. Chung stated that she usually leaves her car at home, opting to walk instead: “I should have walked today,” she said.

—Beth Hartnett

news@claremont-courier.com

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