Sandal causes crash into Custom Hearth

Custom Hearth owner John Lee, right, and Don Lee survey the damage to the stove store.  - Brett Cihon
Custom Hearth owner John Lee, right, and Don Lee survey the damage to the stove store.
— image credit: Brett Cihon

A runaway car smashed through a corner of the Custom Hearth stove store in Gorst Thursday afternoon, destroying some pellet stoves and surprising store employees.

"One minute we were playing stove store," said Custom Hearth owner John Lee. "Then all the sudden it sounded like the world blew up."

Allyn resident Robert Edwards was merging his red Dodge Durango into traffic on State Route 16, from State Route 3, when his flip flop sandal jammed the truck's accelerator pedal.

Edwards said he going 60 MPH as the merge lane ran out on him. He quickly turned the car into the Custom Hearth parking lot adjacent just off SR 16.

"I was coming up behind somebody and I had to turn," he said.

Edwards hit a bump in the Custom Hearth lot and the red Durango launched about three feet into the air, he said. When the two-ton truck landed, it crashed into the corner of the Custom Hearth building, taking out six pellet stoves and destroying a portion of the building.

Edwards' truck stopped in some brush about 20 feet from the building.

There were no injuries.

"They're brand new flip flops," Edwards said. "They got stuck."

Korena Schneider was at her desk on the first floor working as a receptionist when Edwards hit the building.  "The building was shaking and their was debris everywhere," Schneider said.

She said Lee quickly ran downstairs from his upstairs office and shutoff all of the propane gas.

Lee said it was lucky the part of the building Edwards hit wasn't occupied. Many of the store's employees were away on a training seminar in Seattle, he said.

"My wife usually parks her little car right there," he said. "It was lucky she was away."

Washington State Patrol Trooper Matt McMillen said the Washington State Patrol advises people not to drive while wearing flip flop sandals. He said he often sees minor accidents such as fender benders caused by stuck sandals. He also advised that if a pedal is stuck, a driver can slow the car down by putting the car in neutral or slamming on the brakes.

"The brakes override a stuck gas pedal," he said.

A car hit Custom Hearth once before in the 1990's, Lee said, but the damage wasn't as extensive. Lee said Custom Hearth would figure out a way to secure the storefront before repairing the building for the longterm. He said they would talk to insurance about the six damaged stoves. Custom Hearth was already back to fairly normal operations and "playing stove store" the afternoon of the accident, Lee said.


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