A Lakeside resident selling flowers on Lake Jennings Park Road under Interstate 8 was struck and killed by an oncoming pickup truck. The vehicle had crashed into a taxi and stopped in front of her Saturday evening just before 7 p.m. According to reports, Gwendolyn Wheeler, a 49-year-old woman, was talking to a taxi that had pulled over on the shoulder of Lake Jennings Park Road when the driver of a pickup truck drove across lanes and on the raised shoulder, striking the parked taxi from the rear end. Ms. Wheeler died at a nearby hospital, and the taxi driver was seriously injured.
The pickup’s driver made a right turn onto north Lake Jennings Park Road where it drove across the lanes onto the eastern raised shoulder for about 100 feet for unknown reasons, the California Highway Patrold said. The driver of the pickup truck was not critically injured, but arrested for DUI on the suspicion of driving under the influence of prescription medication. After the driver was seen swerving on the shoulder, witnesses then reported seeing the pickup veer back onto the road before it crashed into the right rear of the taxi cab, according to the CHP.
Wheeler was flown to a hospital where she later died. The taxi driver, who was also seriously hurt, was hospitalized.
Loretta Harris, a longtime friend of Wheeler’s, said her friend sold flowers every Friday and Saturday. “That was the money that she lived on,” Harris said. Wheeler was reported as having a number of ailments, Harris said, including diabetes, congestive heart failure and sleep apnea. She had recently been released from the hospital and “was feeling great,” Harris said.
Despite her illnesses, Wheeler had a friendly demeanor and loyal customers. “Everyone just loved her. She would sit and wave all day and sell flowers,” Harris said. Wheeler’s friends hope to set up a memorial in her honor at Lindo Lake County Park where Wheeler would visit frequently, she said.
The collision is currently under further investigation.