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Driver who plowed into East Farmingdale Panera had license suspended in 1996, police say

Jerome Arnold, 69, of Farmingdale, an unlicensed driver

Jerome Arnold, 69, of Farmingdale, an unlicensed driver trying to speed away after hitting a vehicle, apparently lost control of his Nissan Pathfinder and crashed into a Panera Bread restaurant at the Republic Plaza in East Farmingdale just after 10:20 a.m. on Thursday, March 19, 2015, authorities said. Credit: SCPD; Paul Mazza

An unlicensed driver trying to speed away after hitting a vehicle struck a second car at an East Farmingdale shopping center Thursday before barreling into a nearby eatery, pinning and seriously injuring one customer, Suffolk police said.

Jerome Arnold, 69, of Farmingdale apparently lost control of his Nissan Pathfinder and crashed into Panera Bread at the Republic Plaza just after 10:20 a.m., authorities said.

Window glass shattered, tables were flung around, and amid the wreckage, customers frantically dialed 911 as a woman cried out from below the Pathfinder.

"I heard somebody yelling 'Help' from underneath," said Suzi Padro of Lindenhurst. "It was a lady that was . . . sitting across from me.

"We all were scared for her."

Ragen Ryan, 34, of Massapequa, was airlifted to Stony Brook University Hospital after East Farmingdale firefighters extricated her, police said. She has several fractures and internal injuries but is expected to survive, police said.

Marianne Turndahl, 37, of Rockville Centre, who was dining with Ryan, had a fractured arm and was taken to Good Samaritan Hospital Medical Center in West Islip, where she was in stable condition, police said. Both women are nurses, Suffolk police said.

Arnold and his passenger, his wife, were not injured but were taken to Nassau University Medical Center in East Meadow as a precaution, authorities said.

Arnold was charged with leaving the scene of an accident and third-degree aggravated unlicensed operation for driving with a suspended license, police said.

Arnold's license was suspended in 1996 twice after he failed to answer summonses over traffic violations and failed to pay fines, said Det. Sgt. Marco Giudice of the First Precinct.

"He realized he didn't have a license and he attempted to flee" after hitting the first vehicle, said First Precinct Det. Lt. Robert Edwards.

Juan Farias, 45, of Bellport, said he was getting into his truck when he saw the first hit-and-run crash in the parking lot of the nearby Walmart.

The SUV accelerated, speeding through the busy parking lot toward the exit onto Route 110, said Farias, who was also interviewed by police.

The Pathfinder then hit a parked vehicle by Panera Bread and jumped the curb, police said.

"I realized he had hit my car as he was coming in," Padro said.

Arnold's SUV made it all the way inside the eatery but did not cause any structural damage, Giudice said: "It was very close to the wall."

The damage was being assessed, said Gregory K. George, vice president of Doherty Enterprises, which owns several Panera Bread locations on Long Island, including the East Farmingdale one.

"Our hopes, thoughts and prayers are with those injured in this accident," he said in a statement.

Thursday night, George said the damage appears "cosmetic" and so far, there doesn't seem to be any structural damage. He said repairs will be underway and the eatery "may be open as soon as Saturday."

Arnold is expected to be arraigned Friday in First District Court in Central Islip.

With John Valenti

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