JACKSONVILLE BEACH, Fla. – The owner of Espling Jewelers said it was lucky that no one was hurt Monday afternoon when a car crashed into the store on Marsh Landing Parkway in Jacksonville Beach.
"We just had someone run into our store," an employee told a 911 operator. "Their whole car just ran into our store."
The 82-year-old driver told police that he was not sure if he hit the gas or the brake, or if it was a mechanical failure to his vehicle, according to the accident report.
A few people were in the store, which is in a strip mall just off J. Turner Butler Boulevard, at the time. The front door and window were smashed, part of a wall was destroyed, the ceiling was falling in and jewelry cases were tossed around like dominoes.
"I had two employees back here, and their first thought being ... is that the ceiling is coming in?" owner Ben Espling said. "Every one of these showcases was pushed back. There was glass in the back room. Fortunately, no one was in the front of the store."
Espling estimated that repairs will cost $20,000.
A woman said she was driving behind the Mercedes-Benz when it left the parking lot and hit the store.
"It just full speed -- bam -- slammed into that. I couldn't believe it. I've never seen anything like that before," Jenny Smith said. "I hope someone wasn’t hit in there. That’s why I stopped, to just to see what happened."
Smith said authorities arrived and began trying to figure out why the driver slammed into the store.
"They were telling people (who) were coming over and telling them, 'Stay right there. Don't anyone move.' But all of the citizens and everyone, they were really trying to make sure there wasn't any malfeasance going on," Smith said.
"The big thing is that the showcases have been pushed back. So if you look on the right, you'll see a tower is tilted down in the back, so every showcase is pushed back a couple feet on both sides of the building," Espling said. "I do understand it was an older gentleman. So what caused it, we don't know at this point."
The jewelry store reopened for business on Tuesday, despite the damage.
A neighboring liquor store also suffered minor damage from the impact of the car, which pushed display cases into the wall and then broke through into the women's restroom.
"We were just working and all of a sudden we heard a big thud and thought it was, like, a car. So we walked outside to see what was going on. And next thing you know, we saw the car inside the jewelry store with a gentleman in it," said Kevin Khol, who works at Broudy's Liquors. "It was just, like, total shock."
Khol was thankful no on was inside the women's bathroom when the car came crashing through.
"The gentlemen just looked like it wasn't intentional," Khol said. "Like, he didn't know what was going on, and I kind of felt bad for the guy."
Espling and employees, along with a contractor, were cleaning up and boarding up the store for hours after the crash.