A tow truck removes the SUV from Napa Auto Parts on Broad Street in Elizabethton as police investigate the crash. (Nathan Baker/Johnson City Press)
ELIZABETHTON — The NAPA Auto Parts Store at 115 Broad St. sustained a devastating hit from an out-of-control Ford Edge on Wednesday morning, but the owner of the business, Paul Taylor, said it could have been worse and he was thankful no one inside the store was hit.
Taylor said on a normal morning he would have had an employee in the section of the store, stocking and cleaning the shelves. “Fortunately,, he was not standing there because he has the day off,” Taylor said. The rest of the employees were standing by the counter when the crash happened and were not hurt.
The Elizabethton Police Department said Dennis C. Beamer, 57, was driving the Ford Edge. The first officer on the scene at the 8:33 a.m. wreck reported Beamer was still inside the vehicle, which was more than 20 feet inside the store. The officer said Beamer was breathing but unresponsive.
He was extricated from the vehicle and transported by the Carter County Rescue Squad to Johnson City Medical Center, where he was listed in stable condition later in the day. Investigators said there was no evidence of drugs or alcohol being a factor in the accident. There was speculation a medical problem may have led to the crash. The investigation is continuing.
Witnesses said the Edge appeared to be out of control in the Elizabethton Church of Christ parking lot on the other side of Broad Street from the NAPA store. The witnesses said the vehicle then crossed five lanes of busy Broad Street and entered NAPA’s parking lot before crashing into the building.
The crash was spectacular. Taylor said the front door was thrown halfway back to the store. Concrete blocks from the front wall were thrown all the way to a sign on the back wall. A display of oil in the front window was scattered throughout the store. In addition to damaged inventory, the wrecked vehicle also poured out its motor oil all over the floor.
Shattered glass was strewn inside and outside the store, leaving a gaping hole.
Despite the damage to the building, Taylor remained open, using a another door to provide entrance for customers. The damaged area was roped off, but the store was attempting to conduct business as usual. Employees appeared calm and efficient.
Taylor said he had an outstanding first response to his emergency. He said Erie Insurance was quickly at the scene assessing the damage and workers from Servpro were on the scene, clearing away the damage and putting up a temporary wall to cover the hole. He said a security firm was contracted to provide a security guard for the evenings.
Taylor said the damaged glass and support columns are already set aside or being fabricated to replace the damaged sections of the store. Taylor was hopeful the repairs could be completed in a matter of weeks. He said the cost of the destruction has not yet been determined.