2 injured when pickup truck plows through coffee cafe

Posted: Monday, September 06, 2010

Two people were injured Sunday morning when a pickup truck drove through the front windows of the Kaladi Brothers Coffee cafe on the Sterling Highway in Soldotna.

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A truck from Batir Constuction sits loaded with debris in front Kaladi Brothers Coffee on Sunday after a pickup drove through its Sterling Highway storefront.

Jack Anderson, a shift captain at Central Emergency Services in Soldotna, said one person was in critical condition.

The "second patient was not as critical but we had to break some windows out of the building" to get to the victim, he said.

The driver of the truck was evaluated for injuries as well, Anderson said. Soldotna Police Department, which was also on scene, said it would not release any information on the victims or the driver until Tuesday. Anderson said CES also would not release information on the victims or driver.

Kaladi Brothers manager Amy White said both of the injured men were regulars at the coffee shop. She  identified them as Keith Nichols and Brain Barta. She did not know the driver.

She said Nichols was airlifted to Anchorage for medical examination because his injuries were more severe than Barta.

"I spoke with (Nichols) and he's doing OK," she said. He suffered abrasions, cracked ribs and possible internal injury, she said.

Barta was admitted to Central Peninsula Hospital.

Barta said, via telephone form his hospital room, he had "some broken things" and was waiting to be seen by medical specialists.

Anderson said emergency responders received the call at 10:55 a.m.

"The driver was still in the vehicle when we arrived on scene," he said. From what Anderson could tell the truck "drove through the front window through the building and into an adjoining room."

White said police told her it was just an accident on the part of the driver.

"He hit the accelerator instead of the brake," White said.

James Ulricksen, assistant manager of Subway, which is in the same building as Kaladi Brothers, said he and two employees were the only ones in the Subway store at the time of the incident.

"It sounded like a big explosion. The whole building shook," Ulricksen said. "I ran outside to see what happened and there was smoke coming from Kaladi's door and a truck sitting in the middle of it."

Lane Kreider, 17, a senior at Skyview High School in Soldotna, was working at the coffee shop Sunday morning when he heard the crash.

"I turned real quick and heard a screaming sound," he said. "It was the sound of screeching tires."

Kreider said the truck, a green Toyota Tundra, hit a man who was sitting in the corner when it broke through the windows.

He said he immediately called 911 and "told them there was a car through the backside of the windows," and "a guy on the floor and blood."

Kreider said that there were five customers in the store, as well as him and another employee, when the truck came through. One customer was helping with the victims.

"I heard him telling the guy to not move and stay down," he said. "As this is all going on, the tires are still spinning by the guy. His head was a foot and a half away from them."

Kreider said the other injured man had been in the meeting room of the cafe. The truck had plowed through the meeting room wall and table and trapped him in there.

"It was pretty bad," he said. "It was just freak."

According to Tim Gravel, president of Kaladi Brothers Coffee, this is the first time a vehicle has driven through one of his storefronts.

"This is shocking," he said. "I don't know how this happened especially where that's located. It's bizarre."

White said the Sterling Highway cafe will reopen Tuesday with a temporary wall over the damage, but she plans to have it repaired and fully open in a week.

"The building will be fine we just hope the customers will heal and be alright," she said.

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