Sales staff member Dee Zokaites had just walked over to the coffee machine located near the window of the Casa D’Oro Jewelers shop inside the Four Points by Sheraton Hotel in Marshall Township when she glanced up and saw a van heading to the building.
Sure the vehicle would stop, she was shocked when it jumped a median, knocked over a flagpole and then headed straight for the window she was standing in front of.
That’s when she and a customer dove out of the way.
"To be honest, I'm surprised I didn't freeze," she said.
Driven by an elderly woman, the handicap-accessible van smashed through the jewelry shop at about 1:45 p.m. Saturday, according to owner Reza Liaghat.
Liaghat said there were about 100 people in the store, including 13 employees, when the van came through the window. No one was seriously injured, although Zokaites had a cut on her elbow.
“Everyone is fine, thank God,” he said.
Liaghat said the driver of the minivan, who was not identified, was conscious and talking after the incident. The van belonged to the woman's daughter, who is in a wheelchair, Liaghat said.
“From what I understand, she was OK,” he said.
Liaghat said the daughter was unable to get into the van, which was parked in a handicapped spot in the hotel's parking lot, because another driver had parked too closely to it.
The mother then offered to drift the car out of the spot so her daughter could enter it, Liaghat said. However, the mother was unfamiliar with how to operate the handicapped accessible van and lost control of it, according to Liaghat.
The jeweler, who has operated his store out of the Four Points Sheraton for 29 years, described the window as appearing to explode as the van smashed into it.
“I thought it was terrorists,” he said.
Now in one of its busiest seasons because of the holidays, the shop remains open.
“I took a vote from the staff,” Liaghat said. “They all wanted to stay open.”
The window of the store is being boarded up until repairs are made. Liaghat said he was able to recover most of the jewelry from the shattered glass shelves near the window, although some items are damaged.
This is the first time anything like this has happened at the shop, Liaghat said.
Northern Regional Police are investigating the incident.
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