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Car crashes through dental office in Tampa

Tow truck driver Eddie Santiago, left, of National Auto and Hillsborough County sheriff’s Deputy Robert Corn look over the damage from a car that crashed into the waiting area of Coast Dental in Tampa on Monday.

JOHN PENDYGRAFT | Times

Tow truck driver Eddie Santiago, left, of National Auto and Hillsborough County sheriff’s Deputy Robert Corn look over the damage from a car that crashed into the waiting area of Coast Dental in Tampa on Monday.

TAMPA — Dental office manager Annie Burton was talking to a patient Monday morning when, out of the corner of her eye, she saw something hurtling toward her.

In an instant, tiny shards of glass were flying everywhere and a car was inside the waiting room, partly smashed into an interior wall.

"It was like a movie," Burton said. "I looked up and all I saw was a blur."

About 9:15 a.m., a red Ford Freestyle wagon apparently jumped the curb inside a shopping plaza on N Dale Mabry Highway in Carrollwood, bursting through the glass doors of the Coast Dental clinic, Hillsborough sheriffs officials said.

The driver, 56-year-old Wendy Keane of Odessa, was taken to St. Joseph's Hospital with injuries that weren't life-threatening. The car knocked over chairs in the waiting room, littered the ground with glass and ripped the blinds from the windows.

Keane suffered from a medical condition, authorities said, but they did not provide specifics. Witnesses noticed a bandage covering a cotton ball in the crook of one of her arms, indicating blood had recently been drawn.

There were 13 people — 10 employees and three patients — inside the office at the time of the crash, said Christine Duffy, a spokeswoman for Coast Dental. No one was injured.

The car had come from the direction of Quest Diagnostics and passed by the Michael's craft store before crashing into the clinic. The patient Burton was talking to at the front counter was within inches of getting hit. With the car engine still running, Burton pulled the woman over the counter and they stood there in shock.

Several people, including an off-duty paramedic and A.J. Baxter, clinic manager for Select Physical Therapy next door, rushed over. The car, which had obliterated a doorway leading to the examination rooms, was still running.

They smashed the window open, shut off the engine, and went to help Keane. One man, who was not identified, suffered a gash in his arm from the glass.

"A couple of men are heroes," Burton said. "They came from everywhere and moved so quickly."

The office will be closed for about three weeks. Damage is estimated at about $25,000. The dentists will be temporarily placed at other Coast Dental offices in the area and the patients will be treated there, Duffy said.

Julian Suarez, who was next door at the therapy center, surveyed the damage and shook his head. "Can you believe it?" he asked. "They are so lucky nobody was killed in there."

Times researcher Carolyn Edds contributed to this report. Dong-Phuong Nguyen can be reached at (813) 269-5312 or nguyen@sptimes.com.

Car crashes through dental office in Tampa 10/27/08 [Last modified: Tuesday, October 28, 2008 6:51pm]
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