At least 24 people were injured, four seriously, when a car slammed into a Wendy's restaurant in Millersville yesterday, trapping one man beneath it and sending dozens diving for cover amid chunks of flying glass.
Frantic customers overturned tables and chairs in a mad -- for safety. Others ran bloodied and panicked into the parking lot, screaming for help.
"I just happened to look out and saw this car come flying across thehighway. I jumped up and said, 'Oh my God! Run!' " said Barbara Hughes, 51, a nurse with the Anne Arundel County Health Department.
Mrs. Hughes and her friend Millie Beall, an Anne Arundel elementary school counselor, had just finished eating their salads when the car came crashing through the window. They ran to the back of the restaurant, "where we stood against a wall clutching each other."
"That car ended up on the table where we'd been eating," Mrs. Hughes said. "We got up just in time to avoid being killed."
Four customers among the most seriously injured were taken by ambulance to the Maryland Shock Trauma Center. Three were released last night and the fourth was listed in fair condition. Seventeen other customers were treated at area hospitals and were either listed in good condition or released last night.
Police said the incident began about 1 p.m. when a 1980 Buick Regal that had been involved in a collision on Veterans Highway backed up 50 feet, jumped an 18-inch brick skirting and crashed through the restaurant's ground-to-ceiling plate-glass windows.
Officer Jeff Kelly, a police spokesman, said the Buick was going north in the 8200 block of Veterans Highway when it hit a 1984 Volkswagen Jetta that was pulling out of Wendy's. A van that was stopped in the far right lane had blocked the view of both drivers.
The Buick drifted backward across two lanes and into the Wendy's parking lot, rolling slowly at first and then suddenly picking up speed, said Tony Licalzi, 22, who was watching from outside the restaurant.
"All of sudden it gathered speed. The engine was revving. The woman looked like she was in shock. She was dazed," he said of the driver.
'Like a slow-motion dream'
Peter Patterson, a pupil personnel worker with the Anne Arundel County schools, was having lunch with some colleagues when he saw the car careening toward them.
"All at once, I heard these screams," he said. "I looked up and saw a white car coming at us, backward. It was like a slow-motion dream. I remember asking myself if it would stop before it came through the wall."
Mr. Patterson, who was treated at North Arundel Hospital for an injured left knee, was among 10 school employees having lunch at Wendy's after a morning session at the Ruth Eason Special School about a half-mile away.
"People were screaming, bodies were scattered all over the floor," Mr. Patterson said. "Glass and bricks were all over the floor, too, and the screams died down and all I heard were groans from the injured. I was still on the floor and saw the white car now inside Wendy's, the engine was racing and the wheels spinning. Somebody leaned in and turned off the ignition."
"I can't remember any screams or anything like that," said Patricia Adkins, 39, a guidance counselor at Marley Middle School who was sitting with John McGinnis, 50, coordinator of pupil personnel for the county school board.
"I saw the car speeding into the restaurant backward, and Mr. McGinnis grabbed me and moved me," she said. "I heard the shattering of glass, and the force of the car into the tables threw me to the ground. It knocked me out of my shoes.
"I stood up, though dazed, and looked around. I saw people on the floor; one man I knew was bleeding from the head. Mr. McGinnis, after having helped me get out of the way, was under or near the car." At that point, she was told to leave the restaurant. "All I can remember is walking over all those glass chips in my bare feet."
Amid the bedlam, Mr. Patterson began taking note of his friends and colleagues bleeding and in shock.
"I stayed inside and wondered if two of my friends were pinned under the car," Mr. Patterson said. "The paramedics were there so quickly and got right to work. They ordered everybody who was not injured out, but one of my friends said. 'No, let me help, I've seen this before. I was in Vietnam and saw much worse.' This man was allowed to stay and helped out. He consoled people. He gave some directions. He was so under control, so composed."
Courtni Lambeth, an 18-year-old employee, said uninjured customers "were trying to help by grabbing napkins and trying to wipe the blood off the [trapped] man's head."
Anne Arundel police were still investigating the crash last night, and
no charges had been placed.
The driver of the Buick was identified as Gladys Rachel Albert, 67, of the 8700 block of Veterans Highway in Millersville. The Volkswagen was driven by Brian Scott Woodward, 18, of the 300 block of Redwood Grove Court in Millersville,