Ryan McDonald

Babysitter sitter’s wild ride ends after crash at Farmer’s Market

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The route described by sources for a woman arrested after crashing into a stand at the Hermosa Beach Farmer’s Market last Friday. Graphic by Tim Teebken

by Ryan McDonald

A woman driving a blue Audi 4 sedan with a 7-year-old child she was babysitting in the back seat, drove through the Rotary Club Farmer’s Market on Friday. Sources said that after crashing into a vendor’s EZ UP tent, she fled by racing around an asphalt pedestrian walkway that rims the Clark Stadium baseball field.

“She had to be doing 50 mph. She must have thought she was at Ascot Park,” said retired LAPD officer Bill Hallet, referring to the former Gardena Speedway. Hallett attends the market each Friday.

The child sustained minor injuries and was returned to the custody of her mother, according to Sgt. Robert Higgins of the Hermosa Beach Police Department. No one else was hurt. The driver of the car, 34-year-old Manhattan Beach resident Stefanie Ackerman, was arrested after being pulled over several blocks away, at Eighth Street and Ardmore Avenue. She was arraigned Tuesday on charges of felony child endangerment, misdemeanor driving under the influence, and misdemeanor hit and run, Higgins said.

The incident began about 3:45 p.m. when Ackerman rear-ended another car on Valley Drive, in front of the Farmer’s market. According to Hermosa Beach resident Dency Nelson, who was working an election booth at the market, the Audi began steaming and leaking radiator fluid.

Its driver, later identified as Ackerman, got out of her car, leaving the child in the backseat, and apologized to the driver of the other car, Nelson said. He said she did not appear to be intoxicated.

The accident occurred in front of the Hermosa’s Community Services building, which handles parking citations. Several Community Services Officers and at least one HBPD officer helped move the two cars to an adjacent parking area reserved for city vehicles, Nelson said.

Then, according to a statement from the city, Ackerman refused to provide identifying information to the other driver, and “drove her vehicle through barriers and onto the grounds” of the farmer’s market.

Ackerman apparently reached the Farmers Market by fleeing south on Valley Drive, west on Eighth Street and then north on Cypress Avenue, which dead ends at the Clark Stadium baseball field. The baseball field is immediately south of the Farmers Market.

A metal guardrail normally blocks vehicular access onto the baseball field from Cypress. But on this day the guardrail was open, according to Hallett. He said Ackerman reached the Farmers Market the same way she fled — by driving along the asphalt walkway that rims the baseball field.

Officer Higgins said police could not be certain how Ackerman reached the Farmer’s Market because she was too intoxicated to provide a statement, but that the route Hallett described was “one of the theories” police were investigating.

A construction worker coming out of a house on Cypress Monday afternoon said that he was not working the day the incident occurred, but said he has seen the guardrail unlocked on previous Fridays.

Community Services Division manager Georgia Moe said that the city is investigating what happened.

“We are looking into circumstances of how the guardrail might have been opened, to begin with, and taking precautions about opening it in the future. So many people use that facility, and we are trying to determine from Public Works, Are there any hazards to keeping it permanently locked?” Moe said.

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