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Station wagon crashes through Oldsmar post office

Postmaster Doug Pollard surveys the scene after a woman in a Subaru roared through the front entrance of the Oldsmar post office and kept going all the way to the back wall, doing an estimated $250,000 in damage.

JIM DAMASKE | Times

Postmaster Doug Pollard surveys the scene after a woman in a Subaru roared through the front entrance of the Oldsmar post office and kept going all the way to the back wall, doing an estimated $250,000 in damage.

OLDSMAR — It was like a movie: Frank Kubacki heard a thud, then a loud crash. He turned his head just in time to see a man dodge out of the way and yell "Holy (expletive)!"

Across the street from Kubacki's home, an 89-year-old woman in a station wagon had crashed into a U.S. post office and driven all the way through the building.

It happened about noon Monday at 3905 Tampa Road. The driver, Phyllis Slaunwhite of Oldsmar, later told Pinellas County sheriff's deputies that she blacked out and didn't remember the accident.

"It was just a big smash and everyone started shuffling toward the front of the building," said Kubacki, 42. "There you go. Another Florida accident."

Slaunwhite was parking her 2002 Subaru Outback in front of the post office's doors when she apparently passed out and stepped on the accelerator, deputies said. She jumped the curb and crashed through the front doors, the lobby and a back room where 17 employees were working. The car didn't stop until it ran into the rear wall of the building.

No one was hurt except Slaunwhite, who was taken to Mease Countryside Hospital with minor injuries.

Authorities estimate that the crash caused $250,000 worth of damage.

The post office was closed after the accident. Passers-by stopped to ask about the yellow caution tape blocking off the parking lot. Inside the building's broken glass entrance, employees swept up debris and tossed it into a Dumpster.

U.S. Postal Service spokeswoman Nancy Ross said workers would board up the shattered windows and replace them as soon as possible. She expected the office to reopen at 8:30 a.m. today as usual.

"We are so counting our blessings," Ross said. "We're just thankful that everybody is okay."

Slaunwhite's friend of 16 years, Terry Goldman, watched in shock as the Subaru station wagon was towed away Monday afternoon. Its hood was scraped, and the windshield and rear window were cracked. "Totaled," Goldman said.

Goldman and her son, 57-year-old Chip Bierweiler, described their friend as a spry woman who frequently volunteers at the local hospital and library. As far as they know, Slaunwhite has never had any medical problems that caused her to black out.

Goldman had just visited Slaunwhite at Mease Countryside's emergency room. Her friend was "flushed" but remarkably free of any visible scratches or injuries.

"After the way that car looked, it's just incredible" that she wasn't badly injured, said Goldman, 79. "She's in shock because she doesn't remember anything at all."

Slaunwhite was cited for careless driving in March 2009, but otherwise has a clean driving record in Florida, according to the state Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles.

Across the street from the post office, Kubacki said these kinds of accidents are so commonplace that all Florida buildings with glass entrances should be required to place concrete poles out front.

"Thousands of people go in there every day," he said, adding that he had considered walking over Monday to drop his rent check in the mail. "I could've walked over and not made it back across the street. And that's creepy."

Keyonna Summers can be reached at ksummers@sptimes.com or (727) 445-4153.

Station wagon crashes through Oldsmar post office 06/20/11 [Last modified: Monday, June 20, 2011 11:23pm]
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