Customers and employees at a discount store in Chula Vista were rattled Wednesday when a driver plowed through the front entrance of the business, mowing down merchandise displays before coming to a stop in the middle of the store.
The crash happened just before 10 a.m. at a Dollar Tree store located at 941 Otay Lakes Rd. As the car rammed through the building, shoppers managed to jump away from its path. The driver traveled about 30 feet into the store before stopping.
One shopper told NBC 7 she was buying chocolate at the store and had her back turned away from the entrance when, in a matter of seconds, she heard something that sounded like an explosion.
"I thought it was an explosion – a small bomb or something," the witness recounted. "When I turned around, I saw the glass door was lying on the step they have there when you go in – and the car was in there."
The shopper told NBC 7 the few employees and customers inside the store all quickly rushed to the car to try to help the driver. One man looked under the car to make sure nobody was pinned underneath.
In a video shot by another witness, Jeff Dunlap, the car can be seen halted in the middle of the store, sitting on top of Halloween decorations and other goods while shoppers look on in disbelief.
Displays are overturned, shopping baskets are scattered, glass is shattered and the crowd is in utter shock. Some bystanders can be seen running to the car to check on the driver. Others are calling 911.
One woman yells, “Is anybody injured? Is anybody hurt? 911 needs to know.”
At the end of the 35-second video, the driver’s side door is being opened.
In another witness video shot by Nick Bergwitz and obtained by NBC 7, a woman can be seen walking over to the driver and saying, "Is she awake?"
"Okay, they're trying to remove her from the vehicle now," the woman says, as she speaks to a 911 dispatcher on the phone. "There's a big, strong gentleman; he's bringing her out."
The Chula Vista Fire Department said the elderly driver suffered minor injuries. Police said she was alone in the car at the time of the accident.
The witness who said the incident sounded like an explosion told NBC 7 that she saw the driver walk outside after the crash, and heard police had called the woman's granddaughter to meet her at the store.
She said the incident was frightening, but she's grateful no one was harmed. At the time of the crash, the witness told NBC 7 that there was a cashier working close to where the car crashed, as well as an employee stocking an aisle near the Halloween decorations.
"I was scared. I’m still kind of shaking," the witness added. "Thank God nobody was hurt."
The Chula Vista Police Department confirmed that no one inside the store was hit by the car.
About a half-hour after the accident, a tow truck pulled the car out of the store.
A green, mangled shopping basket and purple and orange Halloween decorations were still lodged between the car's bumper and its front tire.
Since the car slammed through the front door of the business, glass was strewn about the sidewalk at the entrance. A handwritten sign was posted on a window that read, "STORE CLOSED."
The cause of the accident is under investigation.