The Pine Cone's second story of the week

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Car plows through insurance co.'s front window


Published: February 18, 2011

A WOMAN driving a Subaru SUV crashed straight through the front wall of a Pacific Grove insurance office Wednesday afternoon but miraculously managed to avoid killing or seriously injuring anyone.

At about 1:30 p.m., Galina Griffiths of Seaside was heading West on Lighthouse Avenue when she attempted to park her Subaru Forester in a diagonal parking space in front of the Tom McKinney State Farm Insurance office at 716 Lighthouse Ave.

But something went terribly wrong.

“She whipped into one of those [parking places] and just never stopped,” Pacific Grove police Sgt. Jose Figueroa explained. “She went through the drive-thru.”

Griffiths, who was visibly shaken after she was helped from the car by firefighters about 15 minutes after the crash, was interviewed by a Pacific Grove police officer, who determined alcohol and drugs did not play a part in the accident.

“She said she doesn’t recall what happened,” according to Figueroa.

Mitchell Davis, who was the only employee at the State Farm office at the time of the accident, was sitting at his desk and had just finished an online bank deposit when the accident happened.

“The car flew through the window and hit a metal beam that supports the building,” he told The Pine Cone. “It was surreal. It was kind of like being in a movie.”

Davis, whose desk faces the office’s plate glass window, jumped back in his seat then instinctively went to the floor to get out of harm’s way.

“Glass was all around me and on the floor,” he explained. “When I went to the floor, I cut my finger a little.”

He immediately called 911 and firefighters and police responded and helped Griffiths from the car. Though stunned, she walked away with only a minor injury to one of her hands.

Davis, who was back to work Thursday, said his coworker who normally sits in the desk closest to the plate glass window had gone to lunch with another worker about 10 minutes before the crash.

“Timing is everything,” he said.

Though the female employee’s desk was situated just out of the direct path of the errant SUV, two customer chairs opposite her desk were mangled.

It’s not clear what caused the Subaru to travel into the office, but Figueroa said some drivers use their left foot to brake while using their right foot to control the accelerator.

“A lot of times it can be traced back to driver error,” he said.

Griffiths isn’t one of Davis’ insurance clients.

She wasn’t cited at the scene, but but Figueroa didn’t rule out Griffiths could receive a ticket in the mail.

Dozens of people watched police and firefighters respond to the incident. A tow truck driver later carefully removed the vehicle from the building. Davis credited police officers and firefighters for responding quickly.

Hours later, after an engineer determined the insurance office was structurally safe, the broken plate glass window was boarded up.

Realizing he had escaped serious injury or death, Davis left the office Wednesday afternoon appreciating life a little bit more.

“The first thing I did is go to my wife’s store [Nest on Grand Avenue] and got a big hug,” he said. “I bought something special for dinner and just relaxed.”