Van Smashes Through South City Building, Displacing Family

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PHOTO BY DANNY WICENTOWSKI
  • Photo by Danny Wicentowski
A driver working for Courtney's Heating & Cooling drove a utility van through the front doors of a south St. Louis building Tuesday, devastating the first floor and leaving the family living on the second floor homeless.

The building was on the 5400 block of Gravois, just a few blocks south of the Bevo Mill.



The circumstances of the crash are unclear, though bystanders tell RFT that the driver was seen exiting the vehicle under his own power and receiving treatment from EMS.

According to accounts of those who gathered the scene yesterday evening, the van was seen speeding across the intersection of Eichelberger Street and Gravois Avenue at around 1:30 pm. But, instead of making a turn onto Gravois or cutting across the diagonal intersection to continue on Eichelberger, the van drove straight into the building.



PHOTO BY DANNY WICENTOWSKI
  • Photo by Danny Wicentowski

The van came to a halt inside a first-floor business office, which has apparently gone unoccupied for years. The force of the crash may have spun the vehicle as it careened through the first floor, which would explain its final position facing the door it had smashed through. The crash also carried the van through a side wall. Its front passenger-side tire could be seen hanging outside the building.

Around 7 p.m. as carpenters evaluated the damage and began boarding up the building, Halid Jausic paced the sidewalk outside what had been his home for the last ten years.

Speaking with the aid of an interpreter, Jausic, a married father of six, said his family had been inside their apartment at the moment of impact, which he jokingly compared to being "bombed by North Korea." Indeed, if not for the van visible beneath splintered wood beams and drywall, the scene on the first floor would pass for the site of an explosion.

Where will Jausic and his family go now? "I don't know," he says.

Later that night, the building was boarded up with plywood with the van still inside.

We've reached out to the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department for additional information, and we'll update the story when we hear back.

PHOTO BY DANNY WICENTOWSKI
  • Photo by Danny Wicentowski
Follow Danny Wicentowski on Twitter at @D_Towski. E-mail the author at Danny.Wicentowski@RiverfrontTimes.com

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