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Sunday, June 13, 2021

Car crashes through the entrance of a Gainesville restaurant

One person is hospitalized after a car crashed through Sohao Street Fare Cafe

Police officers investigate the area and help clean broken glass from the floor of SOHAO Cafe & Gator Suyaki after a blue Dodge was driven through the front of the restaurant on Monday, May 17, 2021.
Police officers investigate the area and help clean broken glass from the floor of SOHAO Cafe & Gator Suyaki after a blue Dodge was driven through the front of the restaurant on Monday, May 17, 2021.

A car plowed through the front entrance of Sohao Street Fare Cafe at 3045 SW 34th Street on May 17, leaving three people with minor injuries, one of whom was taken to the hospital. 

Yifan Zhang, 29, was enjoying a meal with his girlfriend, Jiayi Wang, when the crash interrupted Zhang’s bite of sweet and sour noodles with a side of fried chicken. 

The driver had barreled directly into the cafe and was wedged between tables and booths about 8 feet into the restaurant, right next to where Zhang and Wang sat. 

“I never saw this happen before,” he said. “I only saw this happen on TV.” 

Zhang said he saw remnants of smoke as he and about 10 other people in the restaurant maneuvered through shards of glass and other debris. 

In a video Zhang recorded, people can be heard screaming at the driver to turn the car off. One man tapped on the window of the car, urging the driver to roll it down. He then reached into the car and turned it off while another man in the doorway shouted at him to get the keys and shut the car off.

Zhang said he tried to clear away glass from the floor to help more people leave the restaurant. 

Gainesville Police Department spokesperson Graham Glover said it’s unclear what caused the driver of the blue Dodge Charger to crash into the restaurant. Glover did not answer any questions about the driver’s condition or the cause of the crash and said if any charges are filed, it may take several days to receive information.  

Although the cause of the incident has not been determined, the walkway in front of the restaurant is not raised, making it easier for the driver to crash through the entrance of the restaurant.   

Gainesville Fire Rescue District 1 Chief Michael Steele said emergency services responded to a call about the incident at 7:42 p.m. One woman was carried to an ambulance on a gurney and taken to a nearby hospital with a minor injury. 

About an hour after the initial call, all officers left the scene and restaurant workers began using wood to board up the hole where the entrance used to be. 

At about 9 p.m., workers of the restaurant were sweeping shattered glass from the front doors and windows while about 10 GPD officers remained at the scene. 

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Wang said she had never seen anything like this before but was glad she could walk away unharmed. 

“I was shocked,” she said. “A little afraid.” 

This article has been updated with new information.

Contact Jake Reyes at jreyes@alligator.org. Follow him on Twitter @frlJakeReyes.


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