Elderly man crashes car at market; three injured

Saturday, July 26, 2003

FLAGLER BEACH, Fla. -- 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 around 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 rainy weather meant the market was only one-third full.

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 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. They recently moved to Palm Coast from Russia.

"People were flying everywhere," said Michael Cormier, who works at the market.

Rescue workers responded almost immediately, Cormier said.

The farmer's market is located across the street from city hall and is about a block from the Atlantic Ocean.

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.

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