ST. PETERSBURG ―The owner of Gulfport’s Clara Rose ice cream truck was involved in a traffic accident inside his mobile business on Saturday.
Carlos Velez was driving his bright teal truck to a birthday party around 1:30 p.m. when the crash happened. He was driving on 49th Street heading toward 38th Avenue N, near St. Petersburg’s Disston Plaza shopping complex, when his truck collided with another vehicle. He said he tried to avoid the crash, which resulted in the truck flipping on its side.
“I’m pretty lucky because when I flipped I had a little container of gas (inside) that spilled,” Velez said when reached by phone Sunday.
“So there I am, doused in gas and I couldn’t get out because the door was on the street so I had to smash my way through the windshield.”
Velez said a woman standing on the side of the road came to his aid and helped him rip the windshield off and get him out. Velez was taken to the emergency room and released later that evening. He said he suffered bruises but no broken bones.
The driver of the other vehicle was shaken up but did not appear to be injured, Velez said.
Velez’s truck, a 1964 Willys Jeep, didn’t fare as well. The vintage vehicle, a fleet van originally made for the U.S. Postal Service, was partially crushed in the accident and suffered heavy damage.
Velez bought the truck in 2016, after quitting his job as a sheriff’s detention deputy. He cashed in his retirement savings to customize the van, and has been running the popular ice cream truck since then.
Velez, a father of five, said he is grateful no one was seriously injured but said he is unsure of when or how he will be able to return to work.
“I have nothing to fall back on,” he said. “Everything was in that truck .”
A GoFundMe campaign has been launched to help Velez with the repair expenses. As of Sunday afternoon, the campaign had raised $1,165 of the $40,000 goal.