- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 20, 2003

LOS ANGELES (AP) — The 86-year-old man who plowed his car through an outdoor market and killed 10 persons last week made his first public comment yesterday, saying, “My heart is broken over the extent of the tragedy.”

Russell Weller released the statement through his pastor, the Rev. Stephen C. Lien. Mr. Lien read it aloud after services at Brentwood Presbyterian Church, where Mr. Weller and his wife have been congregants for more than 30 years.

“There are no words to express the feelings my family and I have for those who suffered loss and pain as a result of Wednesday’s devastating accident. I am so very distraught, and my heart is broken over the extent of the tragedy,” the brief statement said.

Witnesses said Mr. Weller’s car sped down the length of the open-air Santa Monica Farmers Market on Wednesday, sending bodies flying. The 10 dead ranged in age from 7 months to 78 years.

The market reopened Saturday, but at least 11 persons remained hospitalized, three in critical condition.

Police are investigating whether Mr. Weller may have hit a Mercedes before the disaster, then sped toward the market while leaving the scene of that collision.

Police have said Mr. Weller told them he didn’t realize until too late that Arizona Avenue was closed to traffic. They also said Mr. Weller believes he might have hit the gas instead of the brake as he tried to stop.

“After the accident, I called Pastor Lien to ask for prayers that might help bring comfort and solace to all who have been touched by this horrible event,” Mr. Weller said in the statement. “I continue my own prayers for all those who are suffering and grieving during this very difficult time.”

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