SAN JOSE -- Police are searching for the driver of a 2004 silver Mercedes sedan that was seen weaving on Highway 101, then exited the freeway and collided with a car early Monday, resulting in the deaths of two San Jose women who were cooks on their way to work.
Carmen Zavala, 63, and Cristina De Leon Castro, 62, died after their Toyota Yaris was struck broadside by the Mercedes on North First Street and Skyport Drive, according to San Jose police. The driver of the Mercedes apparently fled on foot. De Leon Castro died at the scene, and Zavala died after being transported to a local hospital, according to the Santa Clara County coroner's office.
Until the traffic investigation is completed, the deaths are being classified as vehicular fatalities, not homicides, said San Jose police Sgt. Heather Randol. The crash is the 26th traffic incident in San Jose this year resulting in a death.
Randol said police are following leads and searching for the registered owner of the Mercedes. So far, the vehicle has not been reported as stolen.
About 3:16 a.m. Monday, two California Highway Patrol officers in a car observed a Mercedes weaving and speeding on northbound 101, according to CHP spokesman Chris Falkowski. The car exited at the Brokaw Road-First Street offramp, and officers followed, turning on their emergency lights at the end of the ramp.
After turning left onto Brokaw, "the vehicle gave the appearance it was going to yield on the right shoulder at Brokaw and First Street," Falkowski said. But suddenly, it accelerated, sped through a red light and turned left onto North First Street.
The officers decided against pursuing the car and turned off their emergency lights, Falkowski said. They waited for the light to turn green, then turned left onto North First Street. While stopped at a left-turn signal at Matrix Boulevard to return to the freeway, they noticed a car with hazard lights blinking about half a mile ahead on North First.
The CHP officers drove to investigate and found that at the intersection of Skyport Drive the Mercedes had collided with a Yaris.
The two officers, whom Falkowski would not identify, radioed for help and began administering first aid to the occupants of the Yaris.
San Jose firefighters, paramedics and San Jose Police soon arrived.
Falkowski said that while the CHP have the right to pursue vehicles on city streets, officers weigh the risk versus the gain from a pursuit. He noted that North First, with several hotels, a 24-hour Denny's and Mineta San Jose International Airport nearby, could have pedestrians and motorists.
"There never was a chase," Falkowski said. "Unfortunately, this driver decided that he or she was above the law and continued with wanton disregard for other people."
The two victims were on their way to work at airport restaurants. Zavala worked for Sonoma Chicken and Castro worked at Brioche Doree. Both were cooks.
"We are deeply saddened by the loss of Cristina De Leon Castro and Carmen Maria Zavala," wrote Sarah Cody of HMSHost, which runs restaurants and shops at the airport. "Our thoughts and prayers are with their families at this extremely difficult time. Cristina and Carmen will be truly missed by their HMSHost family."
San Jose police are seeking people who may have seen the crash or seen a person, believed to be male, fleeing the area on foot. It's possible that he may have been injured in the crash, Randol said, as the Mercedes' air bag deployed.
Anyone with information may call the police traffic investigations unit, 408-277-4654, or may leave information anonymously at Silicon Valley Crime Stoppers 408-947-STOP (7867) or at http://svcrimestoppers.org.