Staff Photo: Brendan Sullivan
Gwinnett County firefighters respond to the scene where a man in his 60's driving a tractor trailer crossed over the southbound lanes and continued into the strip mall at 1195 Scenic Highway in Lawrenceville Wednesday. The driver was confirmed dead on the scene after crashing into the OWings and The Hair Parlor Salon businesses. No other injuries have been reported at this time.
Driver dies after crashing into strip mall
Police brief the media after a man in his 60's driving a tractor-trailer crashed into the strip mall on Scenic Highway in Lawrenceville Wednesday.
LAWRENCEVILLE — A tractor-trailer veered off Scenic Highway on Wednesday morning, clipping a wing joint and slamming into a hair salon.
The driver, identified as 66-year-old Donald Samples of Snellville, was deceased at the scene, possibly from a medical condition. But Vince and Cody Davis know everything could've been much, much worse -- the brothers had 22 kids inside a karate studio about 100 feet down from the crash site.
"I think I had just said 'go' to start a match," Vince Davis said, "and it looked like a tornado ran through the middle of the parking lot."
The truck was reportedly traveling northbound on Scenic Highway near Essex Drive when it veered left and crossed the median, the southbound lanes and a parking lot "for unknown reasons." At about 10:15 a.m., the truck careened into The Hair Parlor salon and O-Wings restaurant at what Davis described as "about 60 miles an hour."
Those businesses were not yet open for the day, but the driver died at the scene possibly from injuries sustained in the crash.
"It is unknown at this time if the driver suffered a medical condition that contributed to the accident," Ritter said. "Alcohol and drugs do not appear to be contributing causes at this time."
The Davis brothers said they ran down to the scene immediately. They called for the driver, but there was no response. After seeing him, they believed he was already deceased.
Jay Patel works at the Subway restaurant in an adjoining strip mall. He said the shopping center is generally (and thankfully) pretty quiet before 11 a.m., when most of the surrounding businesses open.
"I thought somebody was sick or something, everybody was running down there," Patel said. "Then I looked and said, 'Oh my goodness.'"
Gwinnett County fire personnel were at the scene shoring up the building and securing utilities well into the afternoon, spokesman Lt. Colin Rhoden said. Gwinnett County police's accident investigation unit will determine what made the driver leave the roadway like he did.
The Hair Parlor suffered heavy damage and likely won't resume dishing out perms or dye jobs any time soon. A hundred or so feet to the left, though, and the morning's commotion would have been far more tragic.
"If it would've hit (Karate World) with all of the kids," Vince Davis said, "we would've been toast."