Thursday, April 1, 2010
Car crashes into dentist office
By SUE WATSON
An automobile driven by Dorothy Johnson, 65, of Rolfing Road in Holly Springs, crashed into the waiting room of a dentist’s office Thursday morning, killing one and injuring others.
It happened at the office of Dr. John Jones, 135 East Gholson Avenue.
Mary Lloyd Betts, 76, of 465 East Salem Avenue, who was sitting in the waiting room, was pronounced dead on the scene by coroner James Richard Anderson. The driver was transported to Alliance HealthCare System, as was Sharon Hankins, who was also sitting in the waiting room, according to police chief Robert Pearson. Dr. Jones also was scraped on the leg by the vehicle, he said.
“Dr. Jones had a slight leg injury, a scrape on his leg as she (Johnson) was backing out and he had to jump out of the way,” Pearson said.
Preliminary cause of Betts’ death was ruled accidental by the state medical examiner’s office, Anderson said.
Preliminary findings in the autopsy report cited blunt force trauma to the head, chest and abdomen areas and internal injuries, the coroner said.
Lt. John Norman with the Holly Springs Police Department, who was supervisor at the scene, told Memphis television crews that preliminary information gathered immediately after the incident indicated Johnson “came into the parking lot to turn around.”
The vehicle entered the building on the east side, demolishing that wall, and also broke the brick and a window on the west wall.
Norman said an Alliance ER doctor, who was across the street at B.J.’s picking up laundry, tried to revive the victim but she died before first responders arrived. Police arrived between 9:45 a.m. and 10 a.m., he said.
The vehicle rested partly in a flower bed and partly on the parking lot.
“The driver complained of head pain,” Norman said.
Chief Pearson said the community seemed to be in shock.
“You see all the people standing around - people are concerned,” he said. “This is the type of reaction you get in a community where there are numerous people who know that lady (who was killed). Someone said they saw her walking her dog this morning.”
“One eyewitness was talking to the receptionist (when the accident happened),” Norman added. “He stated, ‘it could have been me.’ ”
Pearson said the investigation into the cause of the accident is ongoing. Indications, so far, are that Johnson turned left off Gholson Avenue into the parking lot, then drove into the waiting room by accident, he said.
After crashing into the building, Pearson said Johnson backed the car out and she was seated in the driver’s seat of the vehicle when officers arrived at the scene.
Johnson was interviewed at the scene and then later away from the scene, he said.
She was released from Alliance hospital Thursday before Pearson said he left the scene of the accident.
Residents in Holly Springs expressed shock and disbelief while they gathered near the scene around Dr. Jones’ office, waiting for word of what happened.
One individual described the moment as surreal.
Nearly everyone knew Betts as the lady who walked her dog, Precious, twice a day on East Salem Avenue. Many expressed concern about who would take care of the dog since Betts had little family in the area except an aging mother, in a nursing home whom she cared for and visited loyally, and cousins.
Betts was also remembered for her years of service as a legal secretary to various law firms in the city for many years.
Judge Gene Brown said he was both shocked and saddened by Betts’ death.
“I had a long and professional and personal relationship with her,” he said. “She worked with previous law firms with which I was associated.”
Before she retired, Betts had worked for Jones & Schneller law firm.
City attorney Ki Jones expressed disbelief.
“I hate it,” he said.
Family nurse practitioner Renee Wright was also shocked.
“I’m very saddened,” she said. “We heard a car was on fire and we (Brame and Wright) would have offered assistance. We could have run over here real quick. I’m very, very sad. It could have easily been our clinic.”
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