Cops: 11 hurt as car crashes into Trader Joe's in Oceanside
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A woman drove her car through the front window of a Trader Joe's supermarket in Oceanside Friday afternoon, terrifying shoppers, scattering merchandise and injuring nearly a dozen people.
Chaos erupted inside the busy store on Long Beach Road as a white Buick Verano suddenly rammed into the checkout lines about 1 p.m., authorities said.
There were no fatalities, but two serious injuries were reported. One man was run over by the car and another was pinned against a wall, Oceanside Fire Chief Kevin Klein said.
Nassau police said the crash has been ruled an accident and did not name the driver, who fire officials said was about 80 years old.
"It's a miracle there were no fatalities," Klein said. "The store was crowded, and she entered through the front, right where the cash registers are, where people were lined up. . . . It was the worst-case scenario where she hit them."
Maricel Baetiong, 39, of Island Park, said she was about to get in the checkout line when she realized she had forgotten to pick up vitamins.
"I was standing right in the area where the car hit," she said after the crash. "I heard a big, loud noise, and I saw the glass shattered."
Baetiong said she watched as a woman who had been knocked down by the car slowly stood -- dazed and in shock. An employee she had spoken to moments earlier was sprawled on the floor.
Klein said about 40 people were in the store at the time, and injuries ranged from simple cuts from broken glass to "a couple of head injuries," though none were considered life-threatening.
Eleven people were taken to hospitals, he said.
Friday night, one victim remained at Nassau University Medical Center in critical condition, a hospital spokeswoman said.
The driver was "extremely disoriented" after, and possibly before, the accident, Klein said.
She backed into three parked cars in the store's lot before shifting into drive and losing control of the vehicle, Klein said.
The car jumped a curb, crossed a 7-foot-wide walkway and smashed through the glass facade, coming to rest 20 feet into the store, he said.
The driver was shaken up but not physically injured, Klein said. She was taken to a hospital for evaluation.
When first responders arrived at the Brooke Plaza shopping center, people were "laying all over, calling for help," Klein said.
Ambulances and emergency crews crowded the center as first responders worked to figure out what happened and who was hurt.
Dr. Richard Bohn, who owns Plaza Optical, a neighboring business, watched the rescue. "I saw one person . . . carried out on a neck board with their head taped down," he said.
Trader Joe's, in a statement, said "our primary concern is the health and well-being of our crew members, customers and anyone else that may have been injured."
Baetiong, a regular at Trader Joe's, was grateful to have escaped serious injury.
"I'm thanking the Lord nothing happened to me," she said. "I could be dead."
With Olivia Winslow, Ellen Yan and William Murphy