Driver who crashed into restaurant, injuring at least 5 people, is charged with speeding

earriero@charlotteobserver.comMarch 16, 2014 

The Lempira Restaurant on Eastway Drive was damaged Sunday when a motorist lost control of the Jeep she was driving and ran into the restaurant, police said.

ELISABETH ARRIERO

Police said a motorist lost control of her Jeep in the rain Sunday and crashed into an Eastway Drive restaurant, injuring at least four people.

She was later charged with speeding.

Officer L.T. Vang said the driver, a woman in her late 30s whom he did not name, was driving toward Tryon Street on Eastway Drive about 5 p.m., when she crossed over the median and into Lempira Restaurant.

The driver, who declined medical help, was charged with exceeding a safe speed, Vang said. He estimated that she was going more than 50 mph “to be doing this much damage.”

Vang said at least three people were taken to the hospital, and everyone was expected to survive. Medic said it transported four people with serious injuries to Carolinas Medical Center.

Nicole Conde, a manager at the restaurant, said she was working at the front of the restaurant when the SUV crashed into the building. She said a couple and their baby, among others, appeared to have been injured during the crash. “I was shocked. I have a 7-month-old daughter, so I was really worried,” she said. “I told (the dispatcher), ‘Oh my God, the baby, the baby, please help the baby.’ 

Owner Masanori Shiramine said he was in the back of the building when the accident happened.

“It sounded like thunder,” he said. “Many people were screaming.”

Shiramine said he plans to close the restaurant indefinitely while it’s repaired.

“It was crazy,” Conde said. “One moment everything is fine, and then you see something unpredictable.”

Arriero: 704-358-5945; Twitter: @earriero

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