Publix Crash Video and 911 Calls Reveal Harrowing Impact and Brave Aftermath
FlaglerLive | April 17, 2012
A surveillance video from two angles at the Publix on Belle Terre shows the Toyota Thelma Wagenhoffer was driving Saturday afternoon as she plowed through the front glass doors, struck six people sitting and standing against a wall, including a three-month-old baby in a carriage, and kept going deep inside the store. The video shows the car speedily approaching the store from a parking aisle, speeding well before the stop sign–and not stopping there: there had been speculation that Wagenhoffer had started accelerating from the stop sign. That’s clearly not the case. (See the original story here.)
A couple had just ambled into the store, its back to the parking lot. A young Publix employee had just walked out and made her way to the parking lot, crossing the car’s eventual path. A sedan drove slowly along the store’s fire lane and made a left into the aisle facing the main door, just to the right of Wagenhoffer’s oncoming car.
Less than a second before impact, whether by protective instinct or other reasons, Marshanna Jones, 15, who was tending to the baby carriage, had placed something in the holding bag beneath the carriage, then had suddenly stood up, instants before the car smashed through the doors, taking her, the baby and the four other people there with it. The wall was severely damaged.
One of the witnesses interviewed Saturday had spoke of the baby carriage that the car had hit, describing it as catapulted down an aisle, without hurting the baby inside. The baby suffered minor injuries.
A different angle, from above the cashiers’ area, shows the Toyota inside the store, a distance past the check-out counters, as several people gathered around the car. Exactly 58 seconds elapse between the moment the car rammed through the store and the moment the rescue party was organized to literally lift the car from one side and free Mario Lupo, an 83-year-old Palm Coast resident who had been pinned beneath the car. Lupo was flown to Halifax Hospital with serious injuries.
No one was killed. Wagenhoffer was charged with careless driving. (An earlier version of this story had incorrectly referred to the charge as reckless driving.)
The store was closed for the rest of the day, though the doors were replaced with plywood before sundown, as nearly a dozen television news trucks had replaced shopper traffic in the parking lot and reporters rehearsed their evening stand-ups before cameras and glowing lights. The store reopened the next day.
Publix stores usually have protective concrete pillars in front of their main entrances, precisely to prevent that sort of accident, which is not unheard of in shopping centers. That Publix on Belle Terre did not have the protective pillars because it was one of the 49 Albertsons stores Publix acquired in June 2008.
The following is the surveillance video, originally acquired by the News-Journal, followed by two 911 calls released by the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office today.
Crash Video from Two Angles
Two 911 Calls Immediately After the Crash