Woman, 76, Crashes Car Into Florida Market, Injures 10

Apr 18, 2012 10:27am

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.

People inside the store described panic as fellow customers ran to the store’s first aid section to get supplies to help the wounded.

“When you see the video you realize it’s a miracle no one got killed,” Florida Highway Patrol Capt. Jerry Crews told the Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Three of the 10 injured remained hospitalized on Tuesday, including an 83-year-old man who was pinned beneath Wagenhoffer’s car.  He was listed in serious condition while his 81-year-old wife was listed in fair condition at another hospital, according to the News-Journal.

Also injured in the accident were a 15-year-old girl who required 32 stitches on her leg after being hit with glass, and a 3-month-old baby who was sitting on a bench outside with his family and suffered a bump to his head.

“She [Wagenhoffer] just pushed everybody out the way like bowling pins,” 33-year-old Lasaunda Hampton, the baby’s mother, told the News-Journal. “The older man that was sitting by me. He was the one that got stuck up under the car ’cause it was us three that she just hit first and the rest of them was just hitting them like bowling pins. Just knocking them out the way.”

A Flagler County spokeswoman told the Associated Press that Wagenhoffer, who was unharmed in the accident, was pulling up to a stop sign in front of the store when she hit the gas pedal instead of the brakes.

Police said the cause of the crash is still under investigation although investigators did not find any mechanical problems with the car that could have caused the crash.

The Publix supermarket closed after the accident but reopened the next morning.

Earlier this month a Publix supermarket in nearby DeLand, Fla., was struck by an experimental airplane that crash landed into the store.  Five people were injured in that crash, including the plane’s pilot and co-pilot.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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