Travel Bug wants hit-and-run driver found

Barb Sweet
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Truck slammed into storefront and sped off

When Peg Norman posted news of a hit-and-run driver crashing into the front of her Water Street store, The Travel Bug, she took the freak accident in stride with a quip.

“Luckily we have good reference materials for situations like this,” she said in Facebook post that included the cover of the “The Ultimate Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook.”

Down at the St. John’s store today, Norman was assessing the damage — a boarded up storefront and some lost window display inventory from the crash — but she was also looking on the bright side.

Passersby who saw a truck slam into the store during a botched  U-turn on Water Street early Sunday morning called the police right away, preventing a worst-case scenario — a looting.

“It could have been a whole lot worse,” Norman said.

“Luckily, there were witnesses. That’s the other thing that could have happened — somebody could have easily walked right in and taken out everything.”

This afternoon the store reopened with a sidewalk sign that said “Wanted: idiot who drove through the front of our store.”

There was another break Norman was thankful for — when the truck pushed the front window in, parts of the interior wood structure came to rest beside a vertical hot water heating pipe, but it did not burst; otherwise there could have been flooding.

Norman got the call from the alarm company around 7 a.m. Sunday, after the landlord, Fortis Properties, got a glass company in to clean up and secure the building. It wasn’t until the workers entered the store that the motion sensors went off, even though the incident happened sometime earlier.

Norman said witnesses got what they thought was the licence plate number, but it must have been wrong because the address associated with the vehicle registration turned up a truck, but not the one that hit the store.

The driver apparently turned around on Water Street, careened onto the sidewalk and hit the store with significant impact that didn’t just break glass, but busted the heavy wood storefront display.

“Who at 3:30 on a Sunday morning is turning around in the middle of Water Street if you are not loaded,” said Norman, speculating on alcohol being behind the driver’s actions in plowing into the store and taking off.

The force knocked over a windowful of items such as luggage, and a large rack with sunglasses, destroying every pair.

The store was closed Sunday and this morning.

“After nine years in business, we’ve been pretty lucky,” said Norman, who owns The Travel Bug with her partner, NDP MHA Gerry Rogers.

“We’ve had no major issues.”

The business was the victim of a “sticky note bandit” that targeted businesses in 2012 with a scheme in which refunds were fraudulently obtained.

Fortis spokeswoman Mary Shortall said the company — as landlord to The Travel Bug — is assessing the damage and waiting on repair quotes. The structure of the 1910 building wasn’t compromised, she said.

RNC spokesman Const. Steve Curnew said the call came into the RNC at 3:45 a.m.

“We received one licence plate that we checked out, and have ruled that vehicle to not be involved in that accident,” Curnew said.

“Any information on that, we certainly encourage the public to give us a call.”

The vehicle in question was described as a black pickup truck, which would have visible front-end damage.

As Norman was navigating around the front store rubble, another business owner had already wished her luck in the weeks and months ahead navigating the insurance system.

A driver accidentally plowed into Manna European Bakery and Deli from the Freshwater Road parking lot in December 2012, destroying the electrical panel and knocking out the telephone and security systems.

Owner Christopher Rusted said nearly 18 months have gone by without financial resolution for losses — although the repairs were done — and he’s had to take legal action against his own insurance company.

“It’s not been a happy experience, Rusted said.

The matter got complicated with the fact the driver and the car owner were not one and the same.

As with The Travel Bug, his premises are leased.

“I hope they don’t encounter that,” Rusted said of his battle, which he fears could see him spending more on legal fees than the claim is worth.

“It’s almost like the insurance is fighting tooth and nail.”

Although the bakery stayed open for a few days, it had to close for repairs and was up and running again within 10 days of the incident.

Although the walk-in trade came back immediately, he said it took the business seven months to regain catering customers who’d had to turn elsewhere during  the closure.

Organizations: Manna European Bakery and Deli

Geographic location: Water Street, Freshwater Road

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