No one was injured in Scotty’s Bayside Tavern or the Tobacco Outlet in West Fenwick Island when a Ford pickup truck drove through two walls of the building on Friday, March 22.
Just after 9 p.m., a truck in the parking lot plowed through the front of the tobacco shop, then got lodged in the side wall connecting it and Scotty’s.
According to a Delaware State Police report, Joanne Barstad, 57, of Selbyville drove her 2006 Ford F150 pickup truck into the building. The report said she was parked in the parking lot, but when she started the truck, which has a manual transmission, she released the clutch and the truck lurched forward into the building.
In the security video, at the 9:13 p.m. timestamp, a few people are walking around the well-lit parking lot. Suddenly, the red pickup truck shoots into the frame, driving forward into the building, angled slightly to the left. After a quick stop, only a couple feet of truck bed and bumper are still hanging out of the wall.
Landlords Tony and Gina Hall said 20 additional security cameras had been hung on the building in November of 2012, for extra protection. West Fenwick Station was built in sections, beginning around 16 years ago, from the current Energy Gym to Scotty’s, which opened in 2005 on the opposite end.
“You can’t fix lives, but you can fix buildings, and we’re just glad none of our patrons were injured,” said Tony Hall.
All of the business owners thanked Roxana Volunteer Fire Company for their help with the incident. After clearing the scene, the response to which also Fenwick Island and state police, Roxana fire company members hung sheets of wood over the gaping hole that exposed the tobacco and alcohol in the shops to the parking lot.
Kevin Patel opened the Tobacco Outlet in the summer of 2012 to sell tobacco, tobacco accessories and snacks. On Friday night, there were no customers in the shop as he was preparing to close the doors at 10 p.m.
Patel said he was fortunate, because he usually stands closer to the door when cleaning up each night. He happened to be standing farther back in the store, so instead of getting caught in the accident, he merely watched, in shock, as the wall and piles of product burst toward him.
“Everything came right to my legs. I was standing for 10 minutes, like, ‘What happened?’ Luckily, nobody was here,” Patel said.
He displayed a cell phone picture that shows a flood of boxes and debris piled across the store. Somehow, the truck didn’t damage his heavy store counter, which runs parallel to the side wall.
Patel estimated having lost $25,000 in goods, including a display of fine cigars worth almost half that amount.
With the shop having lost most of its front wall and main entrance, it’s not easy to see that the Tobacco Outlet is still open, but some customers have been using the back door.
The individual business owners are responsible for any lost merchandise and will have to deal with their own insurance companies for claims, but the landlords plan handle repair of the damage to the building. They expected to meet with an insurance adjuster on Tuesday, March 26, for an appraisal.
Scotty’s Bayside Tavern only sells alcohol, and it was forced to send home customers more than an hour early on the busiest night of their work week. Owner Alex Laird didn’t witness the collision, but he got the phone call soon enough.
“I was alerted we had an incident, and I came in the back door, and there was a pickup in the wall,” Laird said.
If not for Roxana VFC members boarding up the tobacco’s front wall, Laird said he would have slept in the tavern overnight, for security purposes.
“We closed, as would be required. It was not a fit premises to continue business in,” said Laird. “The advantage of Scotty’s is we cater to locals, and many tradespeople. We were lucky to enlist their help.”
On Saturday morning, Scotty’s opened an hour late but had help repairing the 6-by-7-foot hole in the wall. Now, plywood boards hang where a huge glass mirror once rested. Laird pointed out that the structure is actually a pole barn with support in the outer frame. As a result, the vehicle didn’t appear to have caused structural damage in his side wall, which consists of thick, flame-retardant drywall and metal studs.
The driver was transported to Beebe Medical Center with non-life-threatening injuries. The police investigation of the incident was ongoing mid-week, and they said alcohol may have been a contributing factor. Charges were pending, but, as of Tuesday, March 26, no arrests had been made.
“The vehicle was moving fairly quickly,” Laird said, but, “Accidents happen. No one meant to drive through the building.”
Now, the business is returning to normal. Owners have cleaned up most of the mess, and the initial shock is being replaced with some good humor, even prompting one employee to answer the phone at the tavern as, “Scotty’s Drive-Through.”