NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) — A man died after crashing into Scarpellino’s Restaurant on Forbes Avenue in New Haven, according to police.
New Haven Police Lt. Brian McDermott said the driver, later identified as 22-year-old Wilmer Lopez, was taken to the hospital, where police said he died from his injuries.
Lopez was the only occupant in the Toyota Highlander, and no one else was injured, according to McDermott. The restaurant was closed at the time of the crash.
McDermott said the police department is aware of crashes in Branford and East Haven that Lopez was allegedly involved in on his way into New Haven.
Police are still investigating what led up to the crash in New Haven, but witnesses said Lopez was heading west on Forbes Avenue. The victims of the crashes in Branford and East Haven are expected to be okay.
“He lost control and then the car just started flipping,” witness Love Rodriguez said.
Surveillance video captures the incident. The crash took out part of the kitchen of Scarpellino’s Restaurant, but fortunately, it missed the three-inch gas main that powers the kitchen.
The New Haven Fire Department checked the structures of both buildings in the area of the crash. McDermott said the restaurant is structurally sound but will have to remain closed to the public for a while.
“I was in shock when we pulled up,” said Luann Scarpellino, half of the husband-wife team behind Scarpellino’s Restaurant. “There were so many people here. I was just in shock.”
Scarpellino’s Restaurant already survived two fires — one about five years ago, the other last Thanksgiving.
“It was a fire that started from a cigarette butt thrown, probably from a moving car,” Danny Scarpellino said. “And it was a little bit of a pile of leaves outside the building, and it caused the outside of the building to burn.”
The restaurant reopened in January, and now they are cleaning up yet again.
“I’m going to estimate $75,000 to fix that structural damage, the ceiling, the roof,” Danny Scarpellino said. “We weren’t here, the building didn’t blow up, nobody was walking by that car.”
The Scarpellinos are still trying to figure out how long repairs will take and whether they can open for take-out in the meantime. They said they will keep their loyal customers apprised via social media.
As the crash remains under investigation, nearby businesses are urging everyone to slow down, as they say this intersection of Forbes Avenue is dangerous.
“When I heard, it was sad… 22-years-old and within seconds, his life is gone,” said Raja Ali of New Haven. “Speed is a big issue and I don’t see any month go, especially Forbes and Fulton Street, without any accident. There are many accidents.”
Any witnesses to the crash are asked to contact the New Haven Police Department at 203-946-6316. Callers may remain anonymous or submit tips anonymously by calling 1-866-888-TIPS(8477) or texting “NHPD plus your message” to 274637 (CRIMES).