Van crashes into store in Howland leading to power outage

HOWLAND — Max Crozier was working the desk at Global Fitness early Sunday afternoon when he said the power inside the gym flickered several times and he and the nearly 100 people inside heard what they thought was either a loud thunder strike or a transformer exploding.

When Crozier and the others went outside they found a large forest-green colored van had crashed through the brick white wall and glass window of the Grossman’s Bargain Outlet store a short distance from the entrance to Global Fitness.

Ohio State Highway Patrol and police and fire crews from Bazetta, Howland and Warren were called out shortly before 2 p.m. to the crash which happened at the plaza in 3800 block of Elm Road NE.

Sgt. Daniel Jesse of the Ohio State Highway Patrol said a northbound van hit another vehicle, a blue Honda Civic, also heading north before going off the right side of the road hitting a utility pole and street sign. Jesse said the van when in and out of a ditch and then continued east through the parking lot before striking the building.

Jesse said at the time of the accident, the parking lot was full of vehicles but no one was injured or any other parked or moving vehicles were struck.

“There was reportedly a lot of vehicles that were parked here…Very fortunate that he didn’t strike anyone else,” Jesse said.

Jesse said there was only one person in the van which came to a stop in a large window at Bargain Outlet.

John Robinson of Howland, the driver of the 2012 Honda Civic with the right side splattered with mud, said he and a passenger were headed to Menard’s to take back a thermostat when he felt a very strong push from behind.

”It really shook me up. I saw the van go off the side of the road shear off the telephone pole and go through the parking lot. I don’t know how the van got out of the ditch,” Robinson said.

Robinson, who said he was shaken up and his back was sore, said he believes the van had to be going up to 70 mph.

The van driver, a 59-year-old male who was not identified, may have had a medical condition, according to the patrol.

The man was reported to have minor injuries and transported by ambulance to Trumbull Memorial Hospital, according to the patrol.

A utility pole was snapped in half with part lying in the parking lot and the other hanging above the ditch near the roadway. A few wires were also down.

Power was out from south of Menard’s to the North River Road area and nearby Howland streets including North Road. Ohio Edison crews were at the scene working to repair it, and traffic was rerouted about 40 minutes.

Businesses in the plaza lost powered and closed.

An Ohio Edison official estimated a little under 1,500 people in Howland, Bazetta and Warren were affected with power restored shortly afterward.

Police blocked intersection of Elm Road by Menard’s and rerouted traffic through the plaza parking lot.

Terry Cole of Garrettsville was in her vehicle heading north on Elm Road when she saw the van coming up from behind her traveling at a high rate of speed.

”He was right behind me and almost hit my car on the right side. I don’t know if his brakes failed, but he was not slowing down. I saw him hit an electric pole and tore wires down and then bounce in and out of ditch before traveling through the parking lot and through the window of the building,” Cole said.

Cole said her car was splattered with mud as the van went in and out of the wet ditch. She said she also saw a lot of sparking and popping from the electrical wires on the right side of Elm Road.

”If anyone had been walking in the parking lot at the speed he was going, they would have been hit. It was a stroke of luck no one was hit,” she said.

Terry McCluskey of Vienna said he was inside Global Fitness at the time of the crash.

”I heard a loud sound and thought it was a transformer blowing. The lights kept blinking on and off . Someone thought it sounded like thunder,” he said.

Steve Smith of Southington said he was told the van was ”flying through the parking lot.” ”I thought it was a transformer that blew until I came outside and saw what happened,” Smith said.