HOWELL – James Winckowski was airborne when the car crashed into the restaurant.
The 36-year-old Haddon Township man and two other engineers from CME Associates had gone to Stewart All American Restaurant on Route 9 for lunch, he said. They were having the special: chili, root beer, a hamburger, fries.
They were sitting on stools at the restaurant counter. The chili had arrived. One man was reading the Asbury Park Press.
Winckowski turned to see a white pickup truck sliding into his black Honda Accord in the parking lot.
A Honda Civic was careening toward the restaurant.
Dave Ericson, 47, was the swiftest. He said he ran when he saw the pickup flip.
Winckowski leaped over nearby stools as the Civic crashed.
“As I was jumping, in the air, that’s when the car hit,” he said.
The Civic smashed through the front of the restaurant, demolishing a waist-high partition that separated an area of tables from the stools by the counter.
Brian Boccanfuso, 37, didn’t see the Civic coming, he said. He was pinned between the stools and the partition.
But he wasn’t badly injured, he said. Just a couple bruises on his ribs.
“Fortunately, it wasn’t so tight I couldn’t get out,” Boccanfuso said. “I was able to pry myself out and run outside and try to help the guy in the truck that was flipped upside down. But I was probably within two feet of being crushed between the wall and the counter.”
Howell Township Police responded to the crash, according to a press release. A 2008 GMC truck was traveling north on Route 9 when a 2006 Honda Civic made a right turn on red from Georgia Tavern Road into Diehl’s path, police said.
When the truck and car collided, the truck hit the curb in a way that caused it to overturn and land in the restaurant’s parking lot, police said. The Honda Civic struck the building, where Boccanfuso and another patron, Leonard Mosley, were sitting.
The truck driver, 81-year-old William Diehl, was transported to Jersey Shore University Medical Center with minor injuries, according to the release. The other driver, Meridinn Ing, 74, was treated at the scene and refused further treatment.
Boccanfuso and Mosley were treated at the scene.
The building was deemed to be unsafe by the Howell Township Building Department, according to the release.
Winckowski’s car was dented, but not badly damaged.
“The weirdest thing is that we all had mustard all over us and we have no idea where that came from,” he said.
The three men didn’t finish their lunch at Stewart’s. Instead, they went to a nearby White Castle, in part to celebrate their luck.
“We felt really fortunate afterward,” Ericson said. “Because one little tweak in the speed, maybe if the curb weren’t there, who knows what could have happened, man.”
“You hear everyone use the cliche: live every day as if it’s your last,” Boccanfuso said. “But this really shed some light on the fragility of life.”
“Anything can happen at any moment, so be ready,” Winckowski said. “We should have went to Jersey Mike’s instead.”
Originally published here by app.com