ST. PETE BEACH — The driver of a car pulling into a curbside parking space plowed into the patio area of the iconic Hurricane Restaurant in Pass-a-Grille Saturday, pinning a diner.
Witnesses said several patrons on the patio immediately rushed to the car and lifted it enough to pull the man from underneath the Ford sedan.
"Everybody just reacted," said Mike Kirbry, 46, of St. Petersburg.
The man, who was eating with a woman on the outside dining area, was rushed to Bayfront Medical Center, St. Pete Beach police said.
No information was immediately available about his identity or condition.
St. Pete Beach police Sgt. Ray Anthony said the driver of the vehicle, also not identified, was pulling one of the diagonal parking spots on Gulf Boulevard when the car suddenly accelerated.
"We assume he hit the gas instead of the brakes," Sgt. Anthony said.
Jo Brooks, 54, of St. Petersburg said she was just a few feet away when the accident occurred. Nearby, another family sat with a young toddler in a high chair. She spotted the driver pulling into the parking space.
"He didn't stop," Brooks said. "I heard the engine getting louder, like it was accelerating."
Witnesses say both the man and his companion were sitting at one of the picnic tables located outside the Hurricane with their backs to the street.
The car passed over the curb and the wooden patio railing before hitting the man.
The woman he was with appeared to have seen the car coming, witnesses said, and managed to get herself out of the way.
When the vehicle stopped, "her rear was sitting on the hood of the car," Kirby said.
The man was pushed forcefully on top of the picnic table, which collapsed. His legs were trapped beneath the bench and he was bleeding from the head.
"It's taken me all this time for my heart to stop beating so fast," said Brooks, who added that the driver of the car, which had a female passenger, appeared distraught.
The Hurricane is a three-story restaurant overlooking the Gulf of Mexico. It's known for its grouper sandwiches, relaxed atmosphere and great sunset views from the third story patio.
It opened in 1977.