SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - A van crashed into the kitchen of an Outback Steakhouse on Savannah's Southside Friday night, causing a gas leak, a fire and injuring seven people.
Chatham Emergency Services Fire Chief Chuck Kearns says a van crashed through a wall with cooking fryers, sending grease flying and badly burning several people. Part of the roof also collapsed.
The call went out to officials at 6:57 p.m. Savannah Fire arrived on the scene three minutes later.
The Savannah Police Department says the driver, David Lanier, 42, of Rincon, lost consciousness prior to the crash. A lieutenant with the Savannah Police Traffic Unit says the work van was leaving the parking lot headed twoard Abercorn Street when it crashed through the restaurant.
Seven employees went to hospitals for treatment of injuries from minor to life-threatening. Three were airlifted to HCA's Doctors Hospital Joseph M. Still Burn Center in Augusta. One person has a broken arm, and another, a pregnant woman, was injured by the ceiling collapse. Officials say she is expected to be OK.
Lt. Torrance Garvin with SPD's Traffic Unit, says ambulances brought four people to Memorial Health, and three to St. Joseph's Hospital. Two people from Memorial Health and one person from St. Joseph's were airlfted to Augusta. One person was discharged from Memorial Health Friday night, and the other was last listed in fair condition.
We spoke to an employee as well as some people who were eating at the restaurant, and they said this was the scariest thing they have ever experienced.
"We saw the wall and the ceiling kinda collapse and the truck came in here all at once," said Outback employee, Anthony James. "I saw my manager get literally knocked to the front of the store. I saw one of the guys get pinned between the fryers, so yeah, it was a pretty bad scene. One of the managers and myself managed to escape out of the back because the gas and stuff started to leak. Smoke and everything started happening."
When the van wrecked, it also broke a gas line. Savannah Fire says the leak was quickly controlled, and no other businesses or people were affected.
The Savannah Police Department is investigating the cause of the crash, and the van was brought to a secure location for further investigation.