Evan Jones has seen a car or two veer onto the grass near the Highland Park entrance. But the park foreman has never seen anything like the sight he witnessed Thursday night.
"Probably never again," he said. "I don't think they could have done it in a movie and have it as perfect as that."
A Saturn SUV entering the traffic circle around Highland Park at about 6 p.m. Thursday instead traveled across a sidewalk, then over a grassy area and through a patch of flowers and plants, crashed through a bench, hit the retaining wall of the basin surrounding the fountain and then flew several feet through the air, bypassing the surrounding pool of water completely and landing upside down atop the raised bowl that housed the fountain's spout.
By Friday morning, only a few traces of the car's improbable journey remained.
One of the benches facing the fountain had been removed, and on the lip of the fountain's retaining wall and the bowl holding the spout, there were some scrapes from the car. Some landscaping work had been done, and the fountain itself, usually flowing this time of year, was turned off and the damaged fountain spout removed.
Just after 11 a.m. Friday, a public works crew arrived to drain the pool of water. The fountain, scheduled to close next month for the winter, would likely not open again until next March, Mr. Jones said.
A few people visiting the Highland Park entry garden, a $1.5 million project completed in 2005, paused Friday to wonder aloud at the physics of the car's journey. Jerry Aarons, 84, who lives near the fountain in Highland Park, walked to the park with his dogs to try to imagine it.
"I think it's amazing that the gentleman survived," he said.
The driver of the SUV -- Pittsburgh police Zone 5 Cmdr. Timothy O'Connor did not identify him but said he was in his 70s -- was listed in stable condition at UPMC Presbyterian as of Thursday night. Cmdr. O'Connor said police were still determining whether a medical emergency contributed to the crash. None of the 50 people Mr. Jones estimated were in the park at the time was injured.
The car's driver received almost immediate medical attention, thanks to a doctor who happened to be in the park.
Sarah Hagerty, 29, of Highland Park is a physical medicine and rehabilitation resident at UPMC, and on Thursday night she took her 5-pound dog, Poncho, for a walk through Highland Park with her friend, Lynnette Robinson of Penn Hills and her son.
They were on the side of the fountain when Ms. Robinson's son -- a 19-month-old named Chance -- ran to the rear of the fountain, farthest from the park's entrance, and the two women and tiny dog followed him there. They were sitting on the edge of the fountain, their backs to the park entrance, when Dr. Hagerty heard a boom that at first she thought was gunshots.
"We turned around, and we see this car coming, 15 feet, straight toward us," she said.
It landed on the fountain, and then Dr. Hagerty, still wearing her scrubs, jumped into the fountain and walked through the water to the car.
"You just go," she said Friday during a break from her job at UPMC Presbyterian. "I'm not in emergency medicine, but you are trained in the medical field, so I felt comfortable to go in and to do whatever I could at the time, having no equipment."
Inside, the man she found was unrestrained, she said, and she picked up his head so he could spit some water out, told him that she was a doctor and that help was on the way. The man was conscious and was able to tell Dr. Hagerty his name and that he was 78, but he had no idea what had happened to him, she said.
Another woman who was also in Dr. Hagerty's residency program was running through Highland Park at the same time, and saw Dr. Hagerty and joined her in keeping the man steady above the water until first emergency responders arrived.
"It was an experience I'll never forget," Dr. Hagerty said.
Kaitlynn Riely: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1707. First Published September 28, 2013 4:00 AM