Accident destroys ABC Store

Published 9:33 am Tuesday, April 14, 2009

CORAPEAKE – Alcohol and fire are not compatible.

A driver apparently lost control of a vehicle here Saturday morning and crashed into the ABC Store located on NC 32 in Corapeake, completely destroying the building as well as an attached warehouse.

According to Gates County Emergency Management Director Billy Winn, the female driver of a vehicle, traveling north on NC 32, allegedly lost control of her car, which traveled across two ditches, crushed a chain link fence and raced across a parking lot before slamming through the south wall of the ABC Store. The auto then crossed the inside of the store, just a few feet behind the main counter, before coming to rest after impacting the south wall.

The unidentified driver was injured, reportedly suffering burns, lacerations and broken bones. She was airlifted to a Norfolk, Va. hospital with what Winn described as “non-life threatening injuries.”

Three occupants, all children, in the vehicle escaped without serious injuries.

Two workers inside the ABC Store were, according to Winn, “tossed around” but not seriously injured. He said one of the workers was transported to a hospital, but was later released.

“Basically what happened was after the vehicle crashed through the wall of the ABC Store, the impact broke numerous bottles of liquor and the heat from the vehicle’s engine caught the alcohol on fire,” Winn said. “Once that fire started rolling with all that alcohol acting as fuel, it was tough to extinguish.”

Winn said the attached warehouse was full of “cases and cases of alcohol.”

North Carolina Highway Patrol Trooper W.T. Smith is investigating the cause of the accident.

Meanwhile, the Gates County ABC Board is assessing the damages and pondering their next move.

Gates County Manager Toby Chappell said he met Monday with ABC Board Chairman George Kittrell Sr. and other ABC Board officials.

“The ABC Board, which is a separate entity of Gates County government, owns the building and the inventory,” Chappell said. “They are not under the umbrella of the county’s insurance carrier…they have their own insurance, but I still offered Mr. Kittrell the county’s assistance if needed.”

According to the figures provided by Chappell, the accident resulted in a quarter million dollars worth of damage. The building is estimated at $150,000; inventory at $90,000 and another $10,000 in shelving, desks and office equipment.

“The ABC Board has already contacted their insurance company as well as the company providing coverage to the driver,” Chappell said. “An insurance adjuster is scheduled to survey the damage on Tuesday.”

The loss of the Corapeake location leaves Gates County with only one ABC Store – that one located on US 13 near Tarheel Barbecue.