Car collides into Haywood Christian Ministry

By Stina Sieg | Nov 16, 2012
Photo by: Stina Sieg

It was business as usual at the Haywood Christian Ministry Thrift Shop Wednesday afternoon — until it suddenly wasn't.

Around 1:25 p.m., a car crashed through the store's large front window and lurched forward several feet before coming to rest in the middle of the furniture section. No one was seriously hurt, but two shoppers were transported MedWest-Haywood directly after the incident. A third was taken about 20 minutes later after becoming faint, supposedly from shock.

The driver, 73-year-old James Coning, of Clyde, refused treatment. He told authorities he was attempting to park outside the Branner Avenue store when he got a leg cramp and accidentally pushed down on the accelerator.

Within seconds, his Subaru Forester was pushed up against couches, racks of clothes and stuffed animals. Glass was everywhere.

The crash sounded like an "explosion" said JoAnn Phillips, who was staffing the cash register at the time. In that split second, she imaged someone had dropped something — something very heavy — in the store.

She was handing a customer some change, "and all of a sudden there was this vehicle in the room," she said.

She remembers being "kind of paralyzed," she added, though she managed to complete the transaction. Talking about the accident about 20 minutes after the fact, she didn't seem shaken but was definitely still working through her disbelief. The large window is less than 50 feet from where she and customers were standing.

"Thank God nobody was hurt seriously," she said.

Lisa James, executive director of HCM, emphatically agreed.

"Thank the Lord nobody was hurt any worse," she said.

James was in her office in another part of the building when she heard the loud crash. She felt "absolute panic" as she quickly made her way toward the sound, she said. The remembers bursting into the store, asking if everyone was OK. That was her first worry, even more than what had occurred.

"With our volunteers being older, my first thought is safety for them and for our clients," she said.

While she directed that HCM be shut down the rest of the day, she made sure the window was boarded up and the organization was opened back up Thursday. There is no word yet on when the store's window will be replaced, though an insurance claim has already been made.

While HCM has never had anything like this happen before, this sort accident isn't as rare around here as one might imagine. Emergency Medical Service Director Jim Pressley, who responded to the call, said he's seen "pretty much the exact same scenario" quite a few times in the last few years.

"It happens a little more than people would give credit," he said.

He pointed to an accident a few years back at Waynesville's KFC when a driver also smashed through window — after driving right through a short brick wall. There a large list of things that can cause this sort of thing, Pressley explained, and it can range from a distracted driver to someone in a medical emergency.

"Fortunately, this one had a good outcome, considering the circumstances," he said.

The investigation into the accident by the Waynesville Police Department is still going, though investigating officer Sgt. Tim O'Neill said charges are unlikely.