ABC Board explores options

Published 7:59 am Tuesday, April 21, 2009

CORAPEAKE – The Gates County ABC Control Board is exploring options on possibly replacing its most productive store.

The Corapeake ABC Store was destroyed April 11 after a driver lost control of their vehicle, which crashed into the building, caught fire and produced an alcohol-fueled blaze that gutted the facility. An adjoining warehouse, stocked with alcohol, was also destroyed.

As far as what direction to take at this point, Gates County ABC Control Board Chairman George Kittrell Jr. said he and his board colleagues were waiting for an insurance settlement from the company providing coverage on the building.

“We can’t make any decisions until we receive notification from the insurance company,” Kittrell said. “When that occurs, we’ll decide what we can replace.”

Kittrell added that it is the board’s intentions to replace the store and to do so as quickly as possible.

“That was our number one store,” said Kittrell, adding that the two ABC stores in the Gates County system combined to gross approximately $500,000 in sales last year. “That store was in a great location, given the fact that the northeastern portion of Gates County has experienced growth over recent years and the fact that it receives a lot of out-of-state traffic.”

Kittrell said the board is exploring options in regards to the style of building that may be built in the same location of the old store. The Gates County ABC Control Board owns the land where the old store was located.

“We toured a few ABC stores built over the last two years in northeastern North Carolina in order to get some idea of what direction we may take here at the Corapeake location,” he said. “But as I said earlier, all that hinges on what the final figures are from the insurance company.”

Kittrell said the ABC Board was hoping to have those figures by Wednesday.

Meanwhile, charges are pending from the North Carolina Highway Patrol on the heels of the April 11 accident.

Early reports showed that the driver of the vehicle, Markesha Norfleet, 31 of Elizabeth City, was operating a Chevrolet Trailblazer north on NC 32. She allegedly lost control of her vehicle, 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 north wall.

Norfleet reportedly suffered burns, lacerations and broken bones. She was airlifted to a Norfolk, Va. hospital with what were described as “non-life threatening injuries.”

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

According to Gates County Emergency Management Director Billy Winn, two workers inside the ABC Store, Kimberly Wright and Barbara Horne, were “tossed around” but not seriously injured.

“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.

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