SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS/BCN) — A high-speed crash in San Francisco’s Lower Pacific Heights neighborhood Friday morning left a teenage boy dead and his mother and sister in critical condition, a fire department spokeswoman said.
The crash was reported around 6:55 a.m. at Pine and Gough streets.
San Francisco fire spokeswoman Mindy Talmadge said a woman in her 60s or 70s was driving recklessly at speeds up to 80 mph in the area, drove through multiple stoplights and was picking up speed on Pine Street when she rear-ended a minivan occupied by a mother and her teenage son and daughter.
The boy, identified by the coroner Friday afternoon as 16-year-old Kevin San, was pronounced dead at the scene while the mother and daughter were taken to a hospital with injuries that are considered life-threatening, Talmadge said.
“This is as bad as I’ve seen. This is an ugly crash,” said San Francisco Police Chief Greg Suhr.
The crash caused the van to hit another car, injuring more people, authorities said.
Witnesses said the crash sounded like an explosion.
“It was like a big boom, and all of a sudden car alarms started going off,” said local resident Theresa Gonzales.
The woman who rear-ended the van was not seriously injured, Talmadge said.
A catering van was also hit in the accident. The three people inside suffered neck and back injuries.
Police said the intersection of Pine and Gough was shut down after the crash for an extended period of time.
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Time gives brothers many ways to bond. But few have the bond of disease.
Spencer and Zachary Greene from Marin County are 2 such brothers.
In 2008, their father Brock Greene, heard the phone ring and picked it up. On the line: his wife Pam.
”Pam called me from the emergency room and said ‘You gotta get up here’,” said Brock.
Just before his 17th birthday, Spencer had a series of seizures, which landed him in the ER, and a subsequent MRI of his head. This scan revealed a mass in his brain. Spencer said he then turned to the E.R. Doctor
“I just remember asking, ‘Will I live?” and he said “I don’t know,’” recalled Spencer.
“There was this lemon sized mass in his left frontal lobe and three days later he had surgery”, said Brock.
Surgery confirmed the cancer called Oligodendroglioma or “Oligo” for short.
Patients are told there is no cure and to expect to live 8 to 10 years with treatment.
5 years after Spencer’s first surgery, a game of tennis with his dad is a gift.
But those years have been filled with treatment, promise, and more uncertainty: not only about his own disease, but what he couldn’t see happening to his older brother Zach.
“You know, you can recognize your mom from anywhere, and I could hear her hysterically screaming and I just dropped the plate and ran over there,” remembered Spencer.
Two years after Spencer’s surgery, the Greene’s had taken a family trip to Mexico.
“And in the dining room, 3 hours into our vacation, my older son had a grand mal seizure, in Mexico,” said Pam, “We flew home, went to UCSF, and in my older son they found the same kind of tumor as my younger son.”
Doctors say there are really no odds and no way of predicting what happened to Spencer and Zachary. There was no family history of this type of brain tumor in the Greene Family
“It just felt like our family had the worst luck in the world,” said Zachary.
The possibility and reality of both boys having the same type of brain cancer even struck UCSF neuroscientist Doctor Michael Prados.
Dr. Prados has been treating brain tumor patients for 30 years.
“To have these 2 boys with essentially the same tumor, almost the exact same part of the brain, is in by experience quite, quite remarkable and very unusual,” said Dr. Prados.
Zach had the same surgery as his brother and is now back at Columbia University where as a graduate student, he studies astrophysics.
“Trust me; there are deep reservoirs of sadness, fear and anger. They’re there. They don’t help you,” said Brock, “You have to find a… You have to direct your energy at what’s possible.”
But the Greens found that no one’s really funding Oligo research. Their reaction?
“You have no choice. You’re either going to step up to the plate and deal with this or roll over,” said Spencer.
And stepping up is what the Greene Family is doing:
“I’m sort of the “asker in chief’ but the magic is all in the responses,” said Brock.
Brock Greene put his marketing skills and contacts to work and created “Oligo Nation”.
The goal: to raise money specifically to fight this type of cancer.
“If this had to happen to our family, this is who you want the dad,” said Pam, pointing to Brock, “Because of him there’s things being done; because of him the money that we’re raising and the research grants, I feel very hopeful.”
In less than 2 years, Oligo Nation and the National Brain Tumor Society have raised more than $1 million dollars for research.
In June, research grants went to Harvard, and to UCSF.
“Because, what he’s done is provide funding that’s going to help the next family and the next patient in addition to his kids. And to me that’s remarkable,” said Dr. Prados.
Unfortunately, time and treatment haven’t yet been enough for Spencer.
The uncertainty and the tumor are back.
What has never left is the family’s resolve to make a difference and possibly give more time to others.
“My dad works on it every day and it’s not something that’s going to happen overnight but if you continue… You’ll cause a stir, raise money and make something happen,” said Spencer, “and it’s for a greater good.”
A national public service campaign will begin soon
The Greene family wants to raise at least $1 million dollars a year for the next 5 years.