Originally created 09/01/02

Car loses control, hits eatery



AIKEN - When Mary Lee Simpkins' vehicle's brakes failed Saturday, she had two choices, face the red light ahead or make the last turn before the intersection.

Ms. Simpkins, 61, turned. But when she entered the parking lot of the Honey Baked Ham Co. on the corner of Whiskey Road and Silver Bluff Road, she lost control and crashed into the eatery, said Sgt. Wendell Edwards of the Aiken Department of Public Safety.

James Johnson, 57, of North Augusta was the only one injured.

Mr. Johnson and his wife were the only customers in the restaurant at the time. They were sitting at the window where Ms. Simpkins' blue Pontiac Grand Prix entered.

Mr. Johnson was transported to Aiken Regional Medical Centers with cuts from the glass and an injured knee from where the car hit him, Sgt. Edwards said.

Pieces of glass scattered throughout the dining room. The tables and chairs fell like dominoes onto one another. An open chip bag and a half-eaten sandwich were amid the chaos.

"I can't believe this," said the store manager Cary Neeley. "They had to be sitting right there."

Mr. Neeley said he was in the back when he heard a big crash about 4:45 p.m.

"We just got that corner fixed," Mr. Neeley said, referring to a similar incident, in which a customer backed into the building. That incident caused damage to the outer facade.

"It wasn't nearly this bad," he said.

The accident left emergency officials scratching their heads.

"This is a weird one," Sgt. Edwards said.

Ms. Simpkins was traveling on Silver Bluff Road toward the Whiskey Road intersection. She turned right, went around the front of the store and appeared to make a left into the building.

Ms. Simpkins said that when she tried to hit the brakes again her car spun on the wet pavement.

She will not be charged because of defective equipment, Sgt. Edwards said.

Ms. Simpkins had just been to the grocery store. She was asked to go buy bread for her employer, the Whiskey Road Oyster Factory.

"It's the scariest thing I've ever encountered," she said.

Reach Carly Phillips at (803) 648-1395 or carly.phillips@augustachronicle.com.