SAULNIERVILLE, N.S. – Clare resident Darlene Dowell says it’s scary to think of what could have happened on Friday as she and others went about the normal task of buying groceries.
Within seconds this normal task took a shocking turn when a burgundy SUV went barrelling through an aisle at Clarence’s Shopping Mart/Foodland in Saulnierville, Digby County.
“My husband yelled, ‘Watch out!’” said Dowell, who says everything happened really fast.
“I’m very glad that no one was injured,” she said. “It’s a miracle no one got hurt.”
Dowell and her husband had arrived at the grocery store not too long before the incident on Friday afternoon, Jan. 25.
“I was standing there, took something off the shelf and walked towards produce. I'd say within 10 to 15 seconds my husband yelled, ‘Watch out!’ and I ran back a few feet and saw the car coming through the second glass door,” she said.
One of the first shelves the vehicle hit was the one she had been standing next to seconds earlier.
“He kept on hitting the shelf, he wasn’t slowing down,” she said.
Asked what was going through her mind at the time, she said, “I was just thinking, I’m glad I got out of the way.”
Had the vehicle turned to the right, she said, she might not have been as fortunate.
“It was pretty scary,” Dowell said, saying as her husband yelled out the warning she also heard the sound of the vehicle crashing through the sliding front-entry glass doors. She said as the vehicle kept hitting the aisle’s shelf things were flying and crashing to the floor. It was very loud, she said. And still the vehicle wasn't stopping.
Dowell said the aisle she was standing in where the incident occurred fortunately wasn’t filled with a lot of people at the time the vehicle came through, which was just after 3 p.m. She said another woman about five feet away from her also scrambled to get out of the way, falling to the floor as she did.
The vehicle finally came to a stop at the back of the store, hitting into shelving where natural food products such as milk, butter, yogurts and other cold items are displayed, which is alongside other freezers with glass door fronts.
“Everybody was yelling,” she said, saying people rushed over to check on those inside the vehicle. The driver was an elderly male. “He was okay. He got out of the car after a few minutes.”
An elderly woman, the driver's wife, was also inside the vehicle.
Fortunately neither occupant of the vehicle suffered any serious injuries either. They were attended to on the scene by EHS paramedics. As a precaution they were taken to the hospital for observation.
Dowell likened the experience to something you see in a movie.
“It just happened really fast,” she said, adding other shoppers and staff who were in other parts of the store came running over to see what had happened after hearing the loud crashing noises and people shouting.
Clare resident Jenelle deJesus was also at the store at the time of the incident. She had paid for her purchases and had exited the store when she saw someone she knew in the parking lot and stopped to say hello. She watched as a burgundy SUV drove up to the store’s front sliding glass doors and stopped. She thought perhaps the driver was going to be letting a passenger out, since she saw an elderly woman in the passenger seat. The vehicle had stopped in an area that isn’t designated for parking. She didn’t see anyone get out.
“I walked a couple of steps and then I heard this crash,” she said.
She turned and saw the vehicle going through the front glass doors.
“He kept going and going and going.”
She couldn’t believe what she was seeing.
“I was like, oh my God, is this happening? Am I really seeing this?”
DeJesus is a nurse and so she went back inside the store, worried about what she might see. She was relieved not to find anyone injured.
Although the vehicle travelled through the store quite fast, she figured the sound of it crashing through the doors had given people enough advance warning to move out of the way.
“It was a big crash,” she said. “It was quite the commotion. It happened very quick.”
The RCMP, EHS, and the Meteghan fire department all responded to the scene.
The store was closed for the rest of the day on Jan. 25 and the public was notified through the business’s Facebook page on Friday that the store would remain closed on Saturday, Jan. 26.
In the immediate aftermath of the incident the store was in shambles.
A long shelf that the vehicle struck as it came through was pushed from its original position, with considerable damage done to it. There was broken and dented shelving.
Canned and bottled goods, bags of chips, bottles of juice and other food and household items were strewn all over the floor. Other display shelves had also been knocked down.
Tire tread marks could be seen on the floor, amongst the food. Firefighters and others helped with the cleanup.
At the time this story was posted on Saturday the RCMP had not yet issued a media release about the incident, but an RCMP member had been quoted by another media outlet saying it was an unfortunate incident and charges were not being laid, nor considered.