"I saw the car coming down Pine Street here at about 40 (mph). He blew through the stop sign and took a right. He struck a pedestrian. There were people running. ... There was screaming everywhere," said one witness, Richard McManus.
Another witness, Dylan Trudeau, who was at the crowded tourist destination on his first visit to Seattle, said the careening car triggered instant panic among the crowds of people thronging through the market.
"There was a lot of screams, a lot of running around, people clutching for their phones, trying to make phone calls," he said. "It was crazy. There were a lot more people in the street, and it was lucky that only the one man got hurt. ... I’m still shaking now. It was very traumatic. I’ve never seen anything like that."
Travis Nuss, a vendor at Martin Family Orchards, said the car was flying down the Pine Street hill.
"The guy ... passes another car, doesn’t stop. Goes tearing around the stop sign. Tires are screeching. He hits the guy right there. Guy goes up over the top of the car and he speeds up. I don’t know if he freaked out but he sped up and took off down the road. ... We ran down there and tried to stop him."
Eventually the car came to a stop against another car.
Police and medics responded to the scene at about 10:45 a.m. and found the pedestrian, a man in his late 50s, with a head wound. He was alert and conscious as he was loaded onto a backboard and taken by ambulance to the hospital. He is expected to recover.
Witnesses said it appeared the man was injured when his head hit the cobblestones.
"He had a very large gash on the top back of his head – I assume from striking one of the cobblestones here," McManus said. "I’m amazed (the driver) didn’t hit anybody else for the fact that he was going that fast. ... People were just walking and then they were fleeing in every direction. It’s really fortunate no one else got hit."
The driver, described as an elderly man, told officers his foot got stuck between the gas and the brake of the rental car. He struck the pedestrian along with three cars, and one of those hit another car.
Witnesses tended to corroborate the driver's statement that he was trying to stop the car.
"Its brake lights were on, but it wasn’t stopping," said witness Rob Young. "It looked like he was trying to stop."
The driver was released from the scene, said Officer Lauren Lovanhill of the Seattle police. She said it's unclear whether he was cited. She said the driver was not impaired.
The four cars that were struck sustained moderate damage, police said.
Witnesses at the scene said the incident shows that the streets around the market, which typically are teeming with pedestrians, should be closed to traffic.
"People do drive through here at a pretty high rate of speed, considering the amount of foot traffic that comes through – especially in the summer during the busy tourist season," said Nuss. "It would be awesome if they closed the whole thing down to street traffic. There’s really no reason to drive down here unless you’re doing deliveries or picking stuff up. It would be a much safer place if there was not cars driving through here."