Car crashes into Winslow flower shop
By TRISTAN BAURICK Staff Writer
Aug 08 2006
A car traveling an estimated 30 mph crashed through a downtown storefront Tuesday afternoon, after careening through Winslow Mall's narrow pedestrian corridor.
The driver, an 81-year-old Bainbridge man, was ferried to Harborview Hospital in Seattle with minor injuries. Police were withholding his name pending notification of relatives.
No one else was injured, police said. The cause of the crash is under investigation. Police have not yet released the name of the driver.
Witnesses said the driver appeared dazed as he plowed through large flower pots and a three-foot tall planter. His silver Toyota Solara traveled at least 60 feet before crashing through Flowering Around's large south-facing display window. The car came to a stop against the north wall, just after one of the shop's owners jumped out of the way.
"I heard some noise and people yelling but I didn't see it until it was coming through the window right in front of me," said Flowering Around co-owner Ashley Henry outside her ruined storefront. "I jumped. I was coming right at me. I'm quick on my feet. I grabbed the phone, called 911, waited to see if the ceiling was going to come crashing down. Then I went through the smoke and climbed out the window.
"It's amazing no one one was hit."
Henry estimates the car was traveling at 30 miles per hour. The car narrowly missed a half dozen lunch-time customers at Teriyaki Town restaurant and numerous shoppers in the outdoor plaza.
Terri Bryant, co-owner of Dana's Showhouse, was sitting on mall bench when she saw the car rolling toward her.
"I was just doing paperwork -- ordering cards for the store -- when I heard the customers at Teriyaki Town screaming," she said. "One guy told me to get out of the way. Then I heard the engine and the car hitting the flower pots and then I saw the car. It was heading pretty straight. I got out of the way. It passed me by no more than three feet."
That's about the time Janet Hawkins, a clerk at Blanc Noir boutique saw the car drive by her store.
"He came up into here and hit all those flower pots," she said from a mall bench behind yellow police tape. "I saw him. He was an elderly gentleman. He was awake. He appeared dazed, kind of frozen.
"He was coming through at a steady, not excessively fast pace. Maybe the speed of somebody running."
Hawkins happened to be on the phone with Margie Storch, a clerk a few door down at Blinx boutique, as the car drove through the mall.
"When I saw it was heading toward Blinx, I said, 'Margie, look out!'" Hawkins said.
Flowering Around's north wall prevented the car from reaching the neighboring boutique.
"I didn't see it, but I heard it and smelled it," said Storch. "I heard all the yelling and screaming and the crash and then (smelled) all the smoke."
The impact of the car "sounded like a bomb going off" said Ken Playter, manager of the Subway sandwich shop in the mall's second story. "People were yelling 'Oh my God!' and there was a lot of screaming. It was pretty scary."
The Bainbridge Island Fire Department received its first call at 12:41 p.m. and dispatched three emergency vehicles. Officers from the Bainbridge Island Police Department also arrived on the scene and closed much of Winslow Way.
"It could have been an error with the (brake) pedal, but we don't know," Bainbridge Police Detective Scott Anderson at the scene.
Firefighters pulled the driver from his car and carried him to Winslow Way using a leather chair borrowed from Dana's Showhouse.
Witnesses said the man appeared dazed but had no obvious injuries.
Despite a mess of broken pottery shards, strewn flowers and glass, Henry predicts a quick recovery for her business.
"It doesn't seem that bad, even though the front's ruined," she said. "It'll be fine. We want to sweep up and move on."
Henry was pondered the logistics of moving the store's operations to her house as numerous people snapped photos of her shop with cell phone cameras.
"I wonder how many weeks we'll be out of business," she said. "I might transfer the phones and work from home."
Henry's dad and Flowering Around co-owner Mark Henry often peaked in at the dented car parked in his flower show room. He smiled and shook his head after talking with firefighters.
"It's great," he said. "Now we have a drive-thru flower shop."
I know it's not really Bainbridge High... but it's been dead recently anyway. Scary, eh?