Driver missing: After 85mph car scalps house
A stolen car speeding down Rugby Road Friday morning went airborne and plunged through a garage and then a house before shearing off tree limbs and coming to rest crumpled and upside-down in a suburban back yard–- sans driver.
The August 7 wreck has perplexed bystanders. But neighbor Lucky Stone, who was awakened by what he first thought was 2:30am thunder, thinks he figured out what happened after the car took out a utility pole and pulverized a concrete curb.
"He smashed into the roof of the garage, and I guess that gave him some lift," says Stone, who says an investigator estimated the vehicle's speed at 85 miles per hour.
"And then he smashed into the roof of the house, which I guess gave him a little more lift. He wound up upside down with the air-bag deployed."
Pointing to a black stripe spanning the breadth of the intersection where Preston Avenue and Barracks Road meet Rugby Road, Stone says it doesn't appear that brakes were ever applied.
"That's a yaw mark," explains Stone, suggesting that the driver futilely attempted to negotiate the T-intersection.
"I thought a plane had crashed into my house," says the owner, Russell Skinner. "There was debris everywhere, and I could look up and see the moon, so I thought it was either a plane– or a meteor."
Skinner says he and his wife, Nura Yingling, were sleeping only ten feet from the impact zone but that neither was injured. He's not sure he can say the same of the driver, who may have landed about 100 yards from the road and about 50 feet lower in elevation on the steeply sloped property.
Skinner, now ensconced downtown at the Omni hotel by his insurance company and contemplating at least five months before the house–- declared unfit by the City–- can be reoccupied, notes that another car plunged through his yard two months ago before winding up next door in Stone's yard.
Stone says police found that fleeing driver but have yet to locate this one. Given the severity of the wreck and the scope of the flight, he says police were particularly surprised not to find this perpetrator, who allegedly stole a silver Ford Five Hundred sedan from a residence in the Johnson Village neighborhood.
Although tree limbs 15 to 20 feet above ground were broken, there was no body dangling from any tree. Infrared devices and dogs failed to locate anyone, dead or alive.
"I've seen people walk from horrendous wrecks," says Stone, "but I was half expecting when they flipped the car over that they'd find his body in there."
Not only that, but Stone says there was no blood. Still, police are on the lookout for someone badly bruised, or worse.
Other media accounts indicate that a police chase, allegedly called off in the interest of safety, had preceded the crash. Charlottesville Police Department spokesperson Ric Barrick says that although no suspects have been identified by investigators, some evidence was recovered from the scene that "might give them more direction."
–last updated at 12:56pm, August 11