Mom, infant hit by driver |

Mom, infant hit by driver

Roman Gokhman and Dave Moller

A stroll down Sutton Way turned disastrous for a young Grass Valley family Tuesday night.

Sarah Thompson, 23, was carrying her 5-month-old daughter and walking south in front of her husband, Chris Thompson, 23, and their 4-year-old son at 8:50 p.m. According to the Grass Valley Police Department, a pickup driving in the same direction went off the road and struck the mother and infant from behind on the sidewalk.

The driver of the pickup, Leland Foster Buffington, 56, a janitor for Nevada County government offices, was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence resulting in bodily injury.

“It appears at this point it was an unintentional act,” Grass Valley Police Capt. Greg Hart said Wednesday.

Two helicopters flew the mother and the infant to U.C. Davis Medical Center, Hart said, and both were in serious condition at the hospital Wednesday afternoon.

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Patrick Taylor of Grass Valley witnessed the accident as he was driving along Sutton Way. Taylor said he saw the headlights on Buffington’s vehicle jump after it apparently struck the curb.

“I saw people in front of the headlights,” Taylor said. He got out of his car and ran to the scene where Sarah Thompson “was laboring to breathe.”

Lawrence Thompson, grandfather of the injured infant, said it was the second time in 10 years the family has been involved in a car-pedestrian tragedy. Chris Thompson’s 15-year-old brother, Paul “P.J.” Thompson, was killed when a vehicle struck him while he was crossing East Main Street in July 1995.

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