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Monday, May 23, 2022

A car crashed into a utility pole on Southwest 34th Street just south of Archer Road, in front of Back Yard Burgers on Tuesday evening.

The power went out in nearby areas, where residents and businesses were left in the dark for hours.

The 21-year-old driver, identified as Kevin Thomas, was headed north on 34th Street when he lost control of his black Toyota Tacoma, jumped the median and crashed into the pole, said Gainesville Police Department Sgt. Brad Litchfield.

Thomas did not suffer major injuries but was taken to the hospital with possible broken bones, Litchfield said.

"He was coherent and talking to us and everything," Litchfield said.

David Pereda, general manager of Back Yard Burgers, said he received a call from an employee who described the accident to him.

"When (the driver) realized he was on the wrong side of the street, he tried to cut into the parking lot, but obviously he missed," Pereda said.

The Hungry Howie's Pizza located across from the accident scene had about $300 worth of food in the oven when the power went out, said store manager Joe Freismuth.

Customers kept calling to ask what happened with their orders, he added.

Overall, Freismuth estimates the restaurant lost about $2,000 because the power went off during the dinner rush hour, he said.

Next door, Italian Quarter Bistro & Lounge owner Joe Kearns handed out coupons to customers pulling up to the parking lot so they could use them the next time they came to eat. Kearns said he lost about $200 in defrosted meat and about $150 worth of gelato.

Police received calls from nearby businesses requesting copies of the accident report because they may try to get reimbursed for their losses through the driver's car insurance company, Litchfield said.

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Gainesville Regional Utilities workers said they planned to replace the damaged pole with a new one.

Litchfield said workers would be able to remove the damaged pole in a "controlled fall" because it was secured immediately after the accident.

Following the crash, streetlights went out up to University Avenue but were restored soon after. However, workers told police that it could be 2 a.m. before power was fully restored to all effected areas, Litchfield said.

UF student Nick Goddard, a resident at Gateway at Gainesville, said he got home during the power outage Tuesday night with bags full of groceries.

"We were without power for about 35 minutes, so we lit a few candles and waited," Goddard said.

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