UPDATE: Pizza Planet owner -- All employees uninjured, crash could have been worse
Staffers had quite the surprise when a UniFirst box truck crashed through the southwest side wall of the Somerset Pizza Planet (253 Main St.) at approximately 10:45 a.m. Thursday, June 29.
According to Pizza Planet owner Scott Harer, the damage could have been a lot worse if the crash had happened when the restaurant was open.
“Our staff was in the back taking care of a delivery that we got that morning, so they weren’t in the dining area when the truck came through the wall,” Harer said. “Thankfully the accident didn’t happen even any later because we were scheduled to have a group of day camp kids from the elementary school coming in for ice cream at 11:15 or 11:30. We are very thankful that no one was hurt.”
Harer said that he was on his way to the restaurant at the time of the crash and received a call from an employee telling him that a truck had crashed into the building. Initially, Harer told the employee to get the person’s information and he would deal with the situation when he got to the restaurant. However, when the photos of the crash started popping up on his phone Harer couldn’t believe what he was seeing.
“Fixing the building is just time and money. We are just thankful no one was hurt,” Harer said. “We will have the health inspector in soon to see if we can still prepare food and possibly open up for delivery and pickup. We are hoping we will know by Sunday or early next week so we can be open for the holiday. This is the busiest week of the year for us normally, so it isn’t the greatest timing.”
According to Harer, if the health inspector gives the restaurant approval to prepare food, he is hoping they can open from 4-9 p.m. daily. That would allow the repair crews time to work in the morning, while still leaving time for the restaurant to open for business in the afternoon.
“I don’t know what the cost of the repairs will be at this point, especially since we still have to hear from the inspector to see if the wall the truck came through is safe. The truck could have damaged the foundation at that point, so it could be a complete loss if it doesn’t hold up,” Harer said. “If that is the case, we will have to knock down the building and rebuild.”
The building, which Harer has owned and run for the last 10 years, is 20 years old.
“I couldn’t believe how well the staff that was there reacted to the crash,” Harer said. “One of our employees called 911 after the crash and was also helping the driver out of the truck. The other staff members also handled everything really well and remained calm. I was really impressed.”
As surprised as he was about how well his staff reacted to the situation, Harer was also impressed with the reaction from the Somerset community.
“I was surprised how many people wanted to help and wanted to do what they could,” Harer said. “It was really good to see that and know that the community was there for us.”
According to Harer, he had heard that the truck’s driver, who was allegedly not wearing a seatbelt, fell out of his seat and lost control of the truck after coming around the corner heading east/northeast toward Hud and Spring streets.
More details about the crash will be added as soon as the police report on the incident is completed by the Somerset Police Department.
This story will be updated as more information becomes available.