Capital Gazette wins special Pulitzer Prize citation for coverage of newsroom shooting that killed five

Van owner accidentally runs over her family

The Baltimore Sun

Hours after buying a new van, Urvashiben Patel took the silver Honda Odyssey for a spin around the parking lot of her family's Annapolis apartment complex.

But as Patel, who had earned her driver's license 10 days earlier, pulled into a parking space in front of her family and friends waiting on the steps of the community leasing center, she pressed the accelerator instead of the brake pedal.

She crashed the vehicle into four of them, severely injuring her infant daughter and severing a friend's arm.

"The engine blared and then she put on the brakes. But she had too much speed to stop," said neighbor Deloris Parker, who saw the accident just before 10 p.m. Thursday as she returned from Bible study. "Everything was crushed."

Parker screamed for someone to call 911.

"I just cried like they cried," she said. "It was the worst thing I'd ever seen."

The driver, 35, was unhurt, but her 4-month-old baby, Prachi, was at Johns Hopkins Children's Center in critical but stable condition last night.

Saroj Patel, 44, a close friend, was in serious but stable condition at Maryland Shock Trauma Center after her arm was severed.

Urvashiben Patel's mother-in-law, 75-year-old Madhu Patel, who lived with her in the 900 block of Spa Road, was also treated at Shock Trauma and released.

Minal Patel, 27, another close friend who also lives in the Avalon Landing complex, was released yesterday from Anne Arundel Medical Center with facial cuts and bruises.

Yesterday, the crushed wooden railing along the steps outside the community leasing center was replaced.

Minal Patel, who described herself as "like a sister" to Urvashiben Patel, was looking after the Patels' toddler son last night in the apartment complex.

She said the family hailed from Gujarat, India, and moved to Annapolis five years ago. Hitesh Patel, Urvashiben's husband, is the sales manager of Pantry One, a convenience store nearby, said a cashier there.

The family was excited to have the new van, and Hitesh Patel had used it to run an errand before his wife test-drove it, Minal Patel said.

"She is not in very good condition. She is feeling that she did a very bad thing," she said of the driver.

"I don't remember anything. If I could, I can't speak about it. I don't want to recall it," she said, as she prepared to have dinner with close family friends from New Jersey.

Officer Hal Dalton, a police spokesman, said it was clear the crash was an accident, and he did not expect police to file charges.

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