-- A Christmas tree was left standing with all its decorations intact after a texting driver plowed into a home in Delaware on Tuesday, damaging the home severely enough that it was deemed uninhabitable.
A 23-year-old man was driving in a residential neighborhood in Wilmington when he missed a turn and drove over a yard and chain-link fence before crashing into the back of the home just before 3:30 p.m., police said. No one was inside the home at the time.
The homeowner, Salvador Mata Lopez, was driving home from work when he received a phone call from his wife around 5:15 p.m. telling him what happened, he told ABC News today. His first thought was about his 7-year-old son and 3-year-old daughter.
“Everyone is supposed to be home at that time,” he said.
Although his wife told him to relax, he had to pull his car over to process the information.
Photos show the driver’s silver Pontiac Bonneville almost halfway into the home, with its contents in disarray, other than the decorated Christmas tree.
The New Castle County Building inspector later deemed the residence uninhabitable.
Today, building engineers helped Mata Lopez clear the home of its contents so they can inspect how to repair it. The house may need to be razed and completely rebuilt, the first-time homeowner said. He and his family had moved into the home in November 2014.
Considering the destruction of his home, Mata Lopez said he couldn’t believe the Christmas tree went untouched. He and his wife had decorated the home awaiting a visit from his other three children on Christmas day.
“That’s amazing that my Christmas tree was the only thing standing up and nothing happened,” he told ABC News.
The family is currently staying in a hotel while they search for a temporary home.
Mata Lopez said his faith and Christmas spirit have not wavered despite the accident right before the holiday.
“The important thing is my family,” he said. “The house can be repaired. Everything can be replaced. But not lives.”
The driver of the car was not injured and was issued citations for texting while driving and inattentive driving, police said.
Mata Lopez urged all drivers to take caution when operating a vehicle.
"When you're driving, the car is a weapon," he said. "We need to pay attention."