SUV Driver Allegedly Fleeing Hit-Run Smashes Into Panera Bread on Long Island, Injuring 4: Officials

The SUV driver was allegedly fleeing a hit-and-run at the time of the accident

An unlicensed SUV driver allegedly fleeing a hit-and-run lost control of the vehicle and smashed into a Panera Bread store on Long Island Thursday, injuring four people, including a woman who was pinned underneath the truck, authorities said.

The vehicle plowed through the storefront on Broad Hollow Road in East Farmingdale around 10 a.m. Photos from the scene showed the SUV entirely in the sandwich shop; authorities say it came to rest about 15 feet inside the store.

Police identified the driver as 70-year-old Jerome Arnold, who has been charged with leaving the scene of an accident and driving with a suspended license. It was not immediately clear if Arnold had a lawyer.

The circumstances surrounding the alleged hit-and-run that proceeded the Panera accident weren't clear, but police said it was in a parking lot near the Panera Bread.

The 33-year-old woman who was pinned under the SUV, a patron, was conscious after firefighters used heavy rescue equipment to pull her out; she was taken to the hospital. Her family said in a statement late Thursday that she was receiving comprehensive care and asked for privacy.

The other three people injured included another patron, a woman, and the SUV driver and a passenger, who are husband and wife authorities said. All were conscious. The two patrons, both nurses at Winthrop Hospital were in serious condition; the others had minor injuries.

One woman inside the store at the time of the accident described one of the victims as "screaming" and "covered with blood." The woman said one of the victims appeared to have children with her. 

Employees and customers described a harrowing ordeal as the truck careened into the store.

"First we were working and then all of a sudden you hear, 'Boom, boom boom,' and then you see the walls are collapsing," one employee said.

A patron in the store said her friend thought a bomb had gone off. 

Panera Bread said in a statement that it was cooperating with local authorities, and thanked first responders for their assistance.

"Our hopes, thoughts and prayers are with those injured in this accident," the company statement said. "The safety and well-being of our Panera Bread guests and staff is our top priority." 

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