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Gassed On Sunrise

Car strikes restaurant causing a

gas leak and an evacuation

“You could smell the gas for blocks.”

That’s how Friendly’s Restaurant employee Steven Shapiro described the scene when Sunrise Highway was recently shut down because of an accident that occurred in the parking lot of Friendly’s on Dec. 31. According to witnesses, a green Toyota struck gas pipes outside of the restaurant, creating a hazardous situation as gas leaked out. Sunrise Highway was shut down and both businesses and homes in the vicinity were evacuated as crews worked to repair the damage. According to eyewitness Carl Oberle, an employee at Enterprise-Rent-A-Car, the vehicle struck the gas pipes below the shutoff valve, so the gas could not be turned off. Therefore, repair crews had to dig underneath the curb, outside of the restaurant, to get to the gas lines, in order to turn off the gas.

Oberle told The Massapequan Observer, that a woman with what appeared to be several generations of her family returned a rental car to Enterprise-Rent-A-Car, before the group headed to Friendly’s. When she left the restaurant, her car apparently struck the side of the restaurant where the gas pipes are located.

“I told her, ‘You need to get away from the car,’“ Oberle recalled saying to her.

Erica Weitz works in the Friendly’s where the accident occurred and was there when the incident happened. She recalled that after the family had eaten and left the restaurant, one woman came back into the restaurant quite flustered. Weitz recalled her saying, “Our car malfunctioned and we hit into the side of your building.”

We hit the gas line and there’s gas leaking everywhere.”

Weitz said that she went outside and could smell gas immediately. She went back into the restaurant and instructed her colleagues, as well as customers that the restaurant needed to be evacuated.

“It was pretty scary,” she said. “I came in and grabbed everybody’s stuff and said ‘Let’s leave the building.’“

Weitz said that Friendly’s was closed from around 11:45 a.m. until about 6:30 p.m., when it was reopened. She said that IHOP welcomed her and other refugees into their establishment and served hot chocolate. Even there, she says the smell of gas was still quite noticeable. Meanwhile, Oberle and his colleagues went elsewhere to wait out the repairs. The rental car business was shut down for several hours during the evacuation. The highway was reopened later that day and residents were allowed back into their homes. No injuries were reported.