Kenneth Earl Bennett had just changed out a license plate for his boat at the Paulding County Courthouse. Then minutes past noon Friday, he was walking back to his car, talking with Yesica M. Arreguin about her 5-month-old twins when he spotted a car approaching.
He was sure the Lincoln Town Car was headed toward a nearby office building when all of a sudden the car made a quick left turn onto the sidewalk and plowed into him, Arrequin and her babies.
“He tried to jump on a planter but he didn’t jump high enough,” his wife, Tracy Bennett, said Saturday.
The 60-year-old retired grandfather landed instead under the car’s gas tank, just feet away from another victim, Tracy Bennett said. He was treated and released from WellStar Paulding Hospital late Friday night. So too were the twins Louisa and Santiago. Arreguin, 35, of a Douglasville address, was still at WellStar Kennestone late Saturday in stable condition, said Samantha McInturff, a spokeswoman for the hospital.
A fifth victim, Linda Jones, 71, of Rockmart, wasn’t so lucky. She was critically injured and later died at WellStar Kennestone Hospital.
The driver of the car, 81-year-old Marlene Wilbur, was not seriously injured and was able to speak with investigators outside the Dallas courthouse. She was later taken to the Paulding hospital for evaluation. She was later released from Kennestone Hospital and home recuperating Saturday.
Police believe Wilbur, who was arrested and charged with with second-degree vehicular homicide, a misdemeanor charge, lost control of her car while apparently trying to park. They didn’t know why Wilbur was at the court house but believe the woman might have mistaken the gas pedal for the brake.
Ronald Dborak, a hotdog vendor, was inside the building when the crash happened and saw people gathered on the sidewalk as emergency responders arrived. He also saw Wilbur still in her car.
“She was crying,” Dborak said. “She must’ve hit the accelerator pedal instead of the brake and panicked, I guess.”
Attempts to reach her Saturday were unsuccessful. Tammy Wilbur, a former daughter-in-law, said she hadn’t spoken to the family but was praying for them and the accident victims.
“It’s just a tragedy for everyone involved,” she said.
Reached at their home Saturday, Tracy Bennett said her husband Kenneth was released from the hospital late Friday night, scarred and swollen.
“He’s banged up pretty good but he’s alive,” she said. “Everything’s attached. I’m a very grateful person.”
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