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Publix Crash Video and 911 Calls Reveal Harrowing Impact and Brave Aftermath

| April 17, 2012

Thelma Wagonhoffer, who was at the wheel of the Toyota Camry when she crashed into the Publix store, was charged with careless driving. Click on the image for larger view. (© FlaglerLive)

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
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Two 911 Calls Immediately After the Crash
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The other aftermath, long after the crash. Click on the image for larger view. (© FlaglerLive)


And presto: a new door. Click on the image for larger view. (© FlaglerLive)

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36 Responses for “Publix Crash Video and 911 Calls Reveal Harrowing Impact and Brave Aftermath”

  1. GoodFella says:

    She was charged with careless driving which is a lesser charge than reckless. Basically a slap on the wrist with a couple of points on her license. Not fair at all, she could have killed someone. And we still do not know the condition of a few of the people. They might have sustained injuries that will last them a lifetime. It would be nice if Flaglerlive can follow up with some of the injured people and give us an update. Hope all recover!

       1 likes

  2. B. Claire says:

    Palm Coast Publix car crash on ABC News with Diane Sawyer tonight… focus on elderly drivers.

    Latest news broadcast posted was yesterday. Believe tonights show will be posted soon here{ http://abcnews.go.com/watch/world-news-with-diane-sawyer/SH5585921/VD55193122/world-news-417-warren-buffett-diagnosed-with-prostate-cancer

    This part of the story from this morning ABC.

    Apr 18, 2012 10:27am Woman, 76, Crashes Car Into Florida Market, Injures 10

    A 76-year-old Florida woman has been charged with careless driving after she slammed her car into a crowded supermarket Saturday, injuring 10 people, including a baby.

    Thelma Wagenhoffer, of Palm Coast, Fla., was nearing a stop sign at a Palm Coast Publix supermarket parking lot around 1 p.m. when her 2004 Toyota Camry “accelerated rapidly as it crossed the parking lot” and crashed through the store’s front doors, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.

    The Camry, described by witnesses as going about 50 mph, then careened 40 to 50 feet inside the store before coming to a halt by the checkout counters, according to local ABC affiliate WFTS.

    Newly released surveillance video and 911 calls show the chaos that ensued inside the Publix as frantic shoppers fled for their lives.

    Screaming is heard in the background of the 911 calls as shoppers call to report what happened. The surveillance video captured by Publix security cameras show elderly shoppers waiting by the front door when the car hits, as well as a family sitting on an outside bench.

    MORE – VIDEO:

    http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/headlines/2012/04/woman-76-crashes-car-into-florida-market-injures-10/

       1 likes

  3. getittogether says:

    If it was my baby whom Ol’ Drunkendorfer rammed into, she would be wishing every day for the rest of her life that she had quit driving. I don’t know when the younger people of this town will get off their lazy butts and start voting but until then, these fogies will continue to wreak on our roads and control all of our choices. There is an exam to start driving and there should be an exam to continue driving. Driving a car is a PRIVILEGE, not a right, and it should be earned. This woman should lose her privileges and then some for those poor victims.

       1 likes

  4. Jim J says:

    Again – do not rush to condem before the facts are in.

       0 likes

  5. Anonymous says:

    Ill bet that NOTHING is/was wrongwith the car. You hear of this often an older driver swears they are on the break but are in truth on the gas!

       1 likes

  6. Mark says:

    If you look at the first video she may have been on the brakes as she went through the door. My guess is she hit the gas instead of teh brakes at the stop sign then hit he brakes as she when through the door. You can see skid marks. An alternate view may be those aren’t skid marks but speeding tires on the tile floor at full throttle burnign rubber. Hard to tell. I still can’t believe no one got seriously hurt. WIll be interesting to see whatthe final out come will be.

       1 likes

  7. Mom to 5 says:

    First of all any word on the victims? How are they all doing?

    I can see her mixing up the pedals. I can understand the pedal being stuck. I can even believe some other craziness may have happened. The part that I am having trouble with is why she didn’t steer away from the bench. I know she lived in the area and I assume she has shopped there before. That said, I think she would know there is the bench there and people are ALWAYS on that bench. To me it looks like she aimed toward the bench. Only half the door was taken out. Just seems odd to me. Unless she had some mental impairment at the time that kept her from thinking rationally, I can’t for the life of me figure out why she didn’t steer away from there if the car were having issues.

       0 likes

  8. Anonymous says:

    Ragrat….. Try using reliable sources like the NTSB official tests. I mean really.. Huffington Post? Next you’ll be showing me Drudge!

       2 likes

  9. Spacecoaster says:

    Check out the tire marks in the first video. There was nothing wrong with the brakes on that car: she just never touched them until after she’d gone through the front door.

       0 likes

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