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Atlantic Beach boutique hit by vehicle for 4th time in 4 years

Driver accused of smashing truck into storefront charged with DUI

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ATLANTIC BEACH, Fla. – A 21-year-old driver is facing DUI charges after police said he slammed his truck into the AshleGryre boutique in Atlantic Beach -- the fourth time in four years the store has been hit by a vehicle.

William Southworth appeared before a Duval County judge Monday morning on charges of DUI, DUI with property damage and reckless driving.

Store owner Robin Spence said repairs from a March crash were just starting when the truck plowed through Monday morning.

The retail store, which is located where northbound Third Street meets Atlantic Boulevard, suffered severe damage, and Spence called it the worst of the four crashes.

"It’s a difficult situation to come into your business that you’ve poured your heart and soul into to see it just destroyed," Spence said.

WATCH: Surveillance video captures truck crashing into boutique

Video from the store's surveillance shows a black pickup truck ramming through the glass doors before coming to rest inside the boutique.

Spence posted pictures of the crash and damage to the store's social media page.

Glass and concrete covered the floor, displays were scattered across the store and a piece of the truck was left in the center of the room.  

No one was in the store and no injuries were reported, but with the repeated crashes, Spence said her fear is that one will happen with people inside the store and someone could get hurt.

She said based on her previous experience, it will take four to five months to rebuild, and she'll be missing out on holiday sales because of the timing.

"It’s going to be sad not to receive the customers who literally come in here during the holidays. It’s a happy time for everybody, whether they can afford to shop or not, it is just that thing you do during the holidays, you get out and you see your community," Spence said. "And we are not going to be here to greet anybody."

The store will also miss celebrating its five-year anniversary next week.

"We have never had a burglary, but we have had plenty of car crashes," Spence said. "We have had more than our share."

Spence said she hopes this fourth crash brings some awareness to an issue that she said needs to be addressed. She believes a few things could help, like adding bollards -- vertical posts -- to protect the businesses, rearranging the parking lot, or even moving the entrance to the plaza.

Anything that could help protect people in the community would be a step in the right direction, Spence said.

The Florida Department of Transportation started a traffic study on the Atlantic Boulevard/3rd Street intersection this summer after a June 12 request from the city of Atlantic Beach. The study, which should be completed in mid-January, is looking at crashes that have happened at that intersection.

FDOT officials said they will see what they can do as far as safety and operational improvements.

About the Authors:

Ashley Harding joined the Channel 4 news team in March 2013 and reports every weekday for The Morning Show.

Florida-born multi-media journalist pays special attention to issues in St. Johns County.