UPDATED 03/20/15 1 a.m.
EAST FARMINGDALE, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) – Two Long Island nurses barely escaped with their lives Thursday morning, when an out-of-control sport-utility vehicle smashed right through the front of a Panera Bread restaurant in East Farmingdale, Long Island.
AS CBS2’s Jennifer McLogan reported, the driver has been charged with multiple counts.
The incident happened at around 10:30 a.m. Thursday on Broad Hollow Road (Route 110 East), near a Walmart shopping center. One of the women who was struck was initially in critical condition, the other in serious.
Jerome Arnold, 69, was fleeing the scene of a hit-and-run accident in a nearby parking lot and was behind the wheel of his 2005 Nissan Pathfinder when it smashed into the restaurant, police said. Arnold had no license, police said.
The vehicle barreled through the walls and into the dining booths as patrons sat munching on muffins and drinking coffee.
“I thought that the roof was caving in. She thought there was a bomb going off,” said a witness who was eating breakfast with another woman at the time.
Ragen Ryan, 34, and Marianne Turndahl, 37, both nurses at Winthrop-University Hospital in Mineola, were sitting in a booth when the reckless vehicle smashed right into them.
Ryan, also a mother, was pinned under the SUV after the accident and was rushed to Stony Brook University Hospital in Stony Brook in critical condition.
“She was trapped by the vehicle, and we did some heavy rescue techniques to get her out from being pinned, and the paramedics took her over to the helicopter and flew her out to Stony Brook for the trauma team,” said East Farmingdale Fire Chief Joseph Wisz.
Wisz said fortunately, Ryan was conscious and talking to first responders.
Her condition was listed as serious late Thursday afternoon, according to a statement from her family.
“She is in serious condition and is receiving comprehensive care from a very experienced team of surgeons and nurses at the (Stony Brook) Trauma Center,” the statement said. “We are very grateful and thankful for the care she is receiving.”
Turndahl was also hit by the reckless vehicle, and was also recovering from serious injuries late Thursday afternoon.
The front windows of the store were demolished by the impact, and the SUV plowed about 15 feet into the store. Witnesses described the emotional chaos following the explosion of glass, brick and mortar.
“Sorry; a little shaken up — there was blood all over the floor, and a lady was under the car. And the walls are all collapsed and everyone was screaming,” one woman told McLogan. “What happened was the car came in, and hit the walls down, and the car — it was a truck — it ran over her.”
“We were in the restaurant having breakfast and just finishing up and all of the sudden we just heard ‘boom,'” a witness told McLogan. “I thought that the roof was caving in, she thought there was a bomb going off, and as we turned around, we heard someone screaming.”
“She was just screaming, just screaming,” another witness said. “There was two little babies that were there with their grandfather. I couldn’t find him, so I grabbed them and ran out, because they were hysterical.”
“There’s a puddle of blood under her and really all we can do is pray,” a witness told WCBS 880’s Sophia Hall.
Police nabbed Arnold and his passenger, and brought them to an ambulance. There, they allegedly discovered that Arnold did not have a license, McLogan reported.
Detectives said Arnold had hit a vehicle backing up in a parking lot, and never stopped. He allegedly took down a shrub and accelerated, smashing right into Suzy Padro’s parked car before slamming into the Panera.
“Everybody was just in shock. Everybody started running, and when everyone heard the lady screaming, ‘Help! Help!’ from underneath the undercarriage of the car, everyone started panicking; started calling 911,” Padro said. “It’s the most terrifying thing I’ve ever seen.”
Arnold and the female passenger were taken to Nassau University Medical Center in East Meadow for treatment of minor injuries.
“That does scare me,” said Stephanie Howell of Amityville, “because you’re just sitting down eating your lunch, and the next thing you know, you’re in the hospital in critical condition.”
Arnold, of Farmingdale, was later arrested and charged with leaving the scene of an accident and aggravated unlicensed driving, police said. He will be arraigned on Friday.
No one answered the door at Arnold’s house, about two miles from the scene, CBS2’s Weijia Jiang reported.
Meanwhile, construction crews worked well into the night, clearing a massive mess. A sign on the door said the business will reopen as soon as possible.
Panera released a statement following the accident.
“Our hopes, thoughts and prayers are with those injured in this accident,” said Greg George, vice president of operations for Doherty Enterprises, Inc. — the Panera Bread franchisee on Long Island, in a statement. “The safety and well-being of our Panera Bread guests and staff is our top priority. Members of our team are working closely with local authorities to gather details. We also appreciate the response from local first responders on the scene.”
Both of the nurses had loved ones at their hospital bedsides, CBS2 is told.
Suffolk County police detectives asked anyone who may have witnessed the crash and has not been interviewed to call the First Squad at (631) 854-8152.