St. Petersburg Times--State

Driver plows into market

[i]Days after a similar crash in California, three people are hurt when a 79-year-old man loses control.[/i[

By Associated Press
St. Petersburg Times
published July 26, 2003


FLAGLER BEACH - A 79-year-old disabled man lost control of his car and plowed into a northern Florida roadside farmer's market Friday, leaving three people with minor injuries, officials said.

The man, a polio victim who uses a wheelchair when not driving, was leaving the weekly market when he rammed three other vehicles and some food stands about 10 a.m., Flagler Beach police Sgt. Todd Havener said. The town is about 75 miles south of Jacksonville.

The driver, Louis Nirenstein, of Palm Coast, said in a telephone interview that the car's accelerator got stuck.

"It wasn't my fault," he said. "I'm sorry about all those people being injured but they've all been released from the hospital."

The crash happened nine days after an elderly man crashed into a farmers market near Los Angeles, killing 10 and injuring 69.

Nirenstein said it wasn't fair to compare him to the driver from California.

"I've got my wits about me," he said.

The three injured people, including a 7-year-old girl and her mother, were taken to hospitals, but all were released, Havener said. The driver and a 14-year-old boy who was in the car with him were unhurt and were released. Charges against Nirenstein were pending the outcome of an investigation, Havener said.

Officials said the accident could have been worse because the market was only one-third full because of rainy weather.

Police Officer Frank Parrish said Nirenstein was allowed to park inside the market because of his disability. His 1991 Ford station wagon was equipped with a device used to lower the wheelchair to the ground, Havener said.

Havener said Nirenstein was leaving the parking lot when he lost control of the car and went across a lawn, crashing first into a 2000 Ford Windstar van and injuring Miriam Cardillo, 68, of Palm Coast.

The car then hit two other vehicles before turning into the crowd and hitting Bella Eolayan, 35, and her daughter Violet..

Michael Cormier, who works at the market, said the car never braked, finally coming to a rest after being slowed by multiple impacts.

"People were flying everywhere," Cormier said.

Nirenstein told police that his accelerator got stuck as he was backing out of his parking space and again as he drove forward, Havener said.

Nirenstein said he always keeps his car in good shape, recently adding new tires and brakes.

"Once in a while a car will let you down," he said