MALVERN, Ohio (WJW) – Beth Howell says she had just finished preparations for her restaurant’s opening the next morning when she made her way up the stairs to the second floor where she and her husband live.
It was about 11 p.m. on Thursday, March 8th, in Malvern, when she next heard what sounded like an explosion.
“It sounded like a bomb went off,” said Howell.
“I have a kitchen door that goes to the roof, and it blew the door wide open,” she added.
Howell says she woke her husband. When they opened the door to the staircase that takes them downstairs,
It was caused by the impact of a truck that slammed through the wall of their restaurant on the first floor of the home.
“Witnesses said that he was coming across the bridge (about a block away) probably 50-55 miles an hour left of center. There were no cars on the street because it was 11:00 at night or only a couple of cars,” said Howell.
Before crashing into the restaurant, the truck took down a parking sign and a light pole.
“The light post was laying in the middle of the street, so my guess is it got hung up underneath the truck and he couldn’t make the turn, and after he plowed into the building he backed out, drove over the light post it was laying in the middle of the street and then took off,” said Howell.
Howell tells Fox 8 News that firefighters and sheriff’s deputies were there very quickly and were able to recover parts of the truck.
She says that helped them find the truck on a property not far away, but the owner of the truck reported that it had been stolen.
Inside the restaurant, the counter that Howell says her daughter usually stands at was destroyed.
Five feet closer to the kitchen and Howell tells Fox 8 the truck would have ruptured natural gas pipes in the wall and the whole building might have exploded.
“We were trapped in here for about four days. My son came down from Massillon and went to the grocery store and carried stuff up on the roof for us,” said Howell.
“The guy who came to look at it from restoration services he said you were lucky it’s an old building. He said it has a double wall construction that if he went through any of the side the building would still stand,” she added.
The restaurant, which was opened in July of 2022, has been closed ever since.
As the only source of income for three members of the Howell family Beth says they are hoping to get things repaired to be able to re-open as soon as possible but they have not been able to determine whose insurance is responsible for the repairs.
“Even though you know the building insurance is coming through, they are sending a check for the building repairs, which does not cover our business,” said Howell.
She is hoping to have the wall shored up soon so that work can then begin on restoring damage to the interior of the building.
“Yeah, we already two weeks down without business, and I don’t know how long it’s going to take to get the rest of it done. It’s just hard when you are getting started trying to get your clientele built up. We are not a big restaurant, we are not a chain, so it makes it a little harder.”
Howell hopes someone will help identify the person who was driving at the time of the crash.
In the meantime, her daughter has started a fundraiser for anyone willing to help.
“We’ve had people sending us cards and you know they are hoping we get back up and running as soon as possible and they miss us already,” said Howell.