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A man walking down a busy University City street on Tuesday morning was thrown from a 38 foot high bridge after holding onto a light pole trying to avoid a violent car crash.
The 27-year-old pedestrian was walking down an elevated portion of Walnut Street just before 10 a.m. when the driver of a blue 2005 Mercury Montego sedan ran a red light traveling south on 30th Street, according to University of Pennsylvania safety officials. That car collided with a red 2011 Toyota Camry traveling west on Walnut Street.
Officials say the man jumped out of the way to avoid being hurt and grabbed onto a traffic light pole on the sidewalk. The blue Mercury then crashed into the light pole with so much force it and the man were sent flying off the roadway and down to the ground more than 38 feet below, officials say.
Police originally thought the elevated roadway was as tall as 60 feet, but reduced the height after conducting measurements.
Maureen Rush, Vice President for Public Safety at the University of Pennsylvania, says high speed and a "lot of force" led to the freak accident.
"There is an indentation of the wheels on the cement," she said. "It's just an absolutely bizarre situation, particularly for the pedestrian who really tried to avoid being struck."
Rush said Philadelphia Gas Works employees were working on the street below the roadway and witnessed the fall.
"All of a sudden we heard this big boom, this loud noise. We looked up, we see the traffic pole come down and hit the ground first, then he came next," witness Leroy Jackson told NBC10.com.
Jackson and other witnesses said the man was conscious and trying to talk after the fall, but was in severe pain with what appeared to be two broken legs and head injuries.
"He was trying to move, but we told him to stay still until the ambulance came," Jackson said.
The pedestrian was taken to the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania and is listed in extremely critical condition, officials said. Officials have not yet released the man's identity. Students tell NBC10 however that the victim is a 27-year-old man who just recently joined Penn's prestigious Lauder Institute at the Wharton Business School to study international business.
"Tonight was supposed to be a welcome party for the new students,' said Paul Baek, a student at Penn. "So everyone is very concerned. I know he's a first year and he just arrived probably this week and it's the second day of class. I hope he makes a recovery quickly."
The 43-year-old driver of the blue car, which ran the light, is also listed in critical condition. The 69-year-old driver of the red car, which was hit, suffered minor injuries and stayed at the scene to speak with detectives.
The scene of the crash is on the fringes of Penn's campus near the popular Penn Park and World Cafe Live.
Rush said Philadelphia Police's Accident Investigation Division is investigating the crash and that Penn Police are assisting.