Merced man crashes Jeep into G street market

02/21/2013 8:10 PM

02/21/2013 8:42 PM

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

Save-More Market employee Angela Perez, 21, was bagging merchandise when the crash happened around 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 one, and was able to run out of the way,”

Merced police Sgt. Rodney Court said it’s unclear if the driver was under the influence of drugs or alcohol. The driver, whose identity hasn’t been released, allegedly drove his Jeep across G street into the store’s front wall.

Witnesses said the car came out of the alley near a G Street apartment complex, drove across multiple lanes on G street and jumped the curb. The Jeep hit a parked car and then crashed into another car backing out of a parking space, causing a three-car accident.

The Jeep’s driver then crashed into the market’s wall. Court said the driver was unable to focus or speak to police after the crash, and was taken to a local hospital with non life-threatening injuries.

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. After the accident, he appeared to be asleep at the wheel, they said.

Paul Kahlon, owner of Save-More Market, said this is the first time anything like this has happened in 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 were not injured, Kahlon said. A woman walking on the sidewalk was nearly hit by the car, but was able to move out of the way in time, witnesses said.

The store’s financial loss is unknown, but the ATM machine and photo copier were completely destroyed. Kahlon said insurance should cover the damage, and he plans to open for business Friday.

Court said building inspectors would come out to assess the damage Thursday night before determining if the store can open for business Friday. The Fire Department will brace the wall and turn it back over to the owner, he said.

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

-- Ramona Giwargis

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