'Driver error' cited in Warrenville restaurant crash

  • Police say a 71-year-old woman may have accidentally hit the gas pedal when parking at Rock Bottom Brewery restaurant in Warrenville, injuring five people.

      Police say a 71-year-old woman may have accidentally hit the gas pedal when parking at Rock Bottom Brewery restaurant in Warrenville, injuring five people. Mark Black | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 9/8/2011 10:35 PM

A 71-year-old St. Charles woman may have mistakenly hit the gas pedal while parking, running her car into the outdoor dining area of a Warrenville restaurant, authorities said Thursday.

Five people were injured, two of them seriously, during the lunchtime Wednesday crash at the Rock Bottom Brewery restaurant, 28256 Diehl Road, according to Warrenville police.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Deputy Chief Dave Schar said the motorist was pulling her 2011 Buick LaCrosse into a handicapped parking space about 12:24 p.m. when the car traveled over a sidewalk and landscaping, through a wrought-iron gate and through the outdoor seating area before smashing into the east side of the building.

Schar said four of the people who were injured were restaurant guests sitting at the same table on the patio.

The fifth person injured was a waitress who was pinned between the building and the car before the driver accelerated in reverse into an unoccupied parked car. That collision sent the parked car into a second parked vehicle.

Schar said investigators are trying to determine what caused the crash. However, it appears the driver "accidentally pressed the accelerator instead of the brake," he said.

"Statements point to driver error," Schar said.

Still, no charges have been filed. Authorities want to have the car inspected to see if it has any mechanical problems.

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"We're doing due diligence to make sure we cover all the bases," Schar said.

The handicapped space doesn't have any parking blocks, and there isn't a curb in front of the sidewalk. Schar said the area leading up to the sidewalk is sloped to allow for wheelchair access.

Three of the five injured people were released from the hospital on Wednesday. The other two people, including the restaurant employee, remained hospitalized on Thursday.

A spokesman for CraftWorks Restaurants and Breweries, Inc., which operates Rock Bottom, said he was unable to discuss the employee's injuries.

"As always, the safety and well-being of our guests and team members are our first concern," wrote Mike Curtis, CraftWorks' vice president of marketing. "Our hearts go out to those involved as we wish them all the best in recovering from this unfortunate accident."