Jeep smashes into market wall

Patron, pedestrian spared; 2 cars hit

rgiwargis@mercedsunstar.comFebruary 22, 2013 

— No major injuries were reported Thursday night after a Jeep hit two cars and ended up crashing into the wall of Save-More Market at 20th and G streets, just missing a customer, Merced police said.

Save-More Market employee Angela Perez, 21, was bagging merchandise when the crash happened about 6:34 p.m.

"We just heard this loud hit and everything shattered," she said. "There was dust everywhere. A customer was standing in Aisle 1 and was able to run out of the way."

Merced police Sgt. Rodney Court said it's unclear whether the driver was under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

The driver, whose identity hasn't been released, reportedly drove his Jeep across G street into the store's front wall.

Witnesses said the Jeep came out of an alley near an apartment complex, traveled across multiple lanes on G street and jumped the curb. The Jeep hit a parked car and smashed into another car backing out of a parking space.

The Jeep then crashed into the wall of the market.

Court said the driver was unable to focus or speak to police after the crash and was taken to a local hospital with injuries that were not life-threatening.

The drivers of the other cars weren't hurt, but the car exiting the parking spot was badly damaged and required a tow Thursday night, Court said.

Store employees said the driver is a regular customer and they usually see his Jeep parked across the street. He appeared to be asleep at the wheel, they said.

Paul Kahlon, owner of Save-More Market, said the accident is a first at the store in his 18 years of business.

"I heard a boom, like a bomb," he said. "I thought maybe something got hit outside."

The five employees and customer inside the store were not injured, Kahlon said. A woman walking on the sidewalk was nearly hit but was able to move out of the way in time, witnesses said.

The store's financial loss is unknown, but Kahlon said insurance should cover the damage. He plans to open for business today.

Court said building inspectors would come out to assess the damage Thursday night to determine if the store can open for business. The Fire Department will brace the wall, he said.

The cause of the crash is under investigation, but the driver was set to be given a blood test to determine if drugs or alcohol were a factor, Court said.

Reporter Ramona Giwargis can be reached at (209) 385-2477 or rgiwargis@mercedsunstar.com.

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