Witness: 'It Sounded Like A Missile; It Sounded Like The Building Exploded'

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — One man was killed and a woman was injured after a car crashed through the brick wall of a two-story building in the Bronx.

The 49-year-old male driver, identified as Gilbert Alfonso of The Bronx, had apparently been trying to make a left turn onto Overing Street from East Tremont Avenue when he lost control of the Honda Accord and struck the building at 1649 Overing St., just before 1 a.m. Thursday, police said.

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1010 WINS’ John Montone reports

“It just came straight in. It sounded like a missile. It sounded like the building exploded,” witness John Gil told CBS 2’s Kathryn Brown. “I came outside, everything was quiet. There was nobody in the streets, nobody got run over. I noticed there was a car in the building, so the first thing I did was try to go inside and see if they’re okay, talk to him, help him if I can but it was looking bad already.”

(credit: Paul Murnane/WCBS 880)

Gil was first on the scene and frantically tried to revive Alfonso, whom he said was taking his last breath.

WCBS 880’s Paul Murnane On The Story

Alfonso was pronounced dead at Jacobi Hospital.

A 30-year-old female passenger is listed in stable condition, Brown reported. Sources told CBS 2’s Sean Hennessey that Alfonso’s wife didn’t know the passenger and that when she found out, she had to be hospitalized.

No other injuries were reported.

Police said a sign business on the first floor of the building was empty but residents were sleeping in apartments on the second floor.

Some people thought it was a transformer explosion or even an earthquake, WCBS 880’s Paul Murnane reported.

One man even said the car brushed past him and the sound of the impact was like a bomb.

The six apartment units above the bottom-floor business were evacuated, and the 20-or-so residents inside — including three children — were all accounted for, and okay, but shaken to their core, Brown reported.

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“We grabbed whatever we can, and Red Cross is going to help us out and put us up for two or three days,” one resident said.

“As soon as I saw the hole and the guys trying to help out, I ran upstairs, told my partner, ‘let’s go, we got to go.’ Grab the kids and we were out,” another person told CBS 2’s Hennessey.

Those who live on the block told Brown the five-point intersection of East Tremont Avenue, Silver and Overing streets, has long been a problem.

“They put a sign in the wrong place and the cars spin around here coming down Tremont,” said Lou Rocco of the Westchester Square Civic Organization.

“This is a very bad corner here. I’m telling you people speed down here —  they must think this is the Indy 500,” added witness Daisy Fahie.

Hours after the crash, the car was still sitting in the middle of the building. Structural engineers set up 2 by 4s to basically prop up the walls as they assessed whether this structure was safe or at risk of collapsing, Brown reported.

It’s still unclear what caused the accident, though witnesses said they never heard brakes squealing or sounds of an accident before the car hit the brick wall.

Officials from the Department of Buildings were still assessing the structural soundness of the building. The owner said he expects the car to be removed at some point Thursday.

It appears residents will not be allowed back inside the building for at least a week, officials said.

For Jennifer Soto, that means she and her kids will stay at her mom’s house.

“Thank God it’s only that short amount of time,” Soto said. “[I] appreciate that we got out alive. Someone did lose their life here. Spend some quality time with my mom because there’s no place like home.”

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