SMITHTOWN, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — A speeding car slammed into a restaurant in Smithtown, Long Island early Sunday, causing a huge explosion.
As CBS2’s Dave Carlin reported, the driver was killed and police were trying to identify him Sunday night. Meanwhile, the owners of the restaurant were lucky to be alive.
Suffolk Police say a man was driving a 2004 Nissan Quest eastbound on Jericho Turnpike in Commack when he lost control of the vehicle and struck an unoccupied, parked Ford pickup before barreling into the Casa Luis Restaurant, located at 1029 W. Jericho Turnpike, just after midnight Sunday morning.
Authorities say the vehicle, and the restaurant, caught fire. The kitchen and other sections of the restaurant was destroyed.
The owners live right upstairs from the restaurant.
The crash was caused by an out of control driver who was alone in the vehicle and died behind the wheel.
“The guy had to be going way over 100 miles an hour — way over,” said Commack resident Gregg Garafalo.
Trying to trace what happened took investigators to the start of more than 200 feet of skid marks.
The Nissan Minivan careened over curbs, smashing and dragging a tree, shredding a sign, and punching a wall before slamming into the building — landing upside down on top of the restaurant owner’s truck.
The gas line was severed, causing a fire that left the driver’s body unrecognizable. Investigators say that complicated the task of getting a positive identification.
What caused the man to crash is unknown. All that is known is that he was driving at a very high rate of speed.
“People speed here all the time. I see multiple accidents. I see people hit telephone poles,” said Carlos Rosa of Kings Park. “People just need to go slow. They need to slow down.”
The restaurant owner declined an on camera interview, but told CBS2 his 13 employees had left for the night. Inside and closest to the crash and blast was his wife, who was seen afterward being consoled by friends.
She was unhurt and made sure her husband quickly got outside.
Repairs have started, and the owner said he has been told it will take eight months to get his restaurant reopened.
Sergio Juarez is a waiter at Casa Luis who started with the restaurant nearly 29 years ago. Now, he must find another job.
“Now we are all in shock, because now we don’t know what we’re going to do,” Juarez said.
Speaking for his coworkers, he added the horrific loss of life hurts their hearts, and they are grateful their bosses survived all this without a scratch.
Officials with the town building department declared the structure unsafe and said it must be rebuilt.
Detectives are asking anyone with information on this crash to call the Fourth Squad at 631-854-8452.