Savannah Outback Steakhouse reopens after crash

SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - Savannah's Outback Steakhouse reopened Monday for the first time since a van crashed through the restaurant kitchen and hurt seven people.

Owner Davey James posted a flyer announcing the reopening on Twitter. James was one of three employees burned and airlifted to Joseph M. Still Burn Center at Doctors Hospital in Augusta after the Feb. 16 crash.

Outback will donate 20 percent of opening day sales to the Southeastern Firefighters Burn Foundation.

"Everybody really comes together when we need to. It was a perfect opportunity to share with the coverage we had from a first responder standpoint. That everyone just coming out and making sure we were okay, and that was the number one concern, so it just made sense with it being in a burn situation," James said. "It's been very challenging from a physical standpoint, mentally as well, and this is a celebration of what the community has done to support us."

Most of the restaurant staff have returned after going without a job for nearly two months, but James says employees were compensated throughout the process.

"We put ourselves in a position where we could talk to everyone - counseling, the financial stability, and just ease of mind," James said.

For one employee, she never felt a sense of worry not being able to go back to work.

"Not being able to get up and come to work was interesting because it was like 'what am I supposed to do with my time,' but we were given the opportunity to go work at other stores," Haley Riddlebarger said.

Immediately after the crash, the Savannah Police Department said van driver, David Lanier, 42, of Rincon, lost consciousness prior to plowing through the restaurant wall. He has not been charged with any crime. SPD did not have an update on the cause of the crash at last check on March 27, and a spokesperson said the department's Traffic Investigation Unit is still working on the case.

The director of communications and public relations at Doctors Hospital did not return a request for comment Sunday on if Outback employees Ryan Gaines and Quincy White are still being treated at the burn center or their current conditions.

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