Relief no one hurt after £86k Jag ploughs into restaurant
The driver of a car that smashed into the front of a restaurant has told how he was forced to take evasive action to avoid hitting oncoming traffic.
After yesterday's freak accident at Graze in east Belfast, the owners said they expected to lose thousands of pounds but were happy no one was seriously hurt.
Sam Butler (60), the driver of the car and a former editor of the News Letter, said he had been faced with either crashing into oncoming traffic or swerving into the premises on the Upper Newtownards Road in Ballyhackamore.
John Moffatt, head chef and part-owner of the eatery, was in the kitchen with another chef when he heard the crash just after 10am.
"We heard a really loud bang and we ran upstairs to look out the window and saw a Jaguar convertible hanging out the front," he said.
"We couldn't believe it. There were breeze blocks all over the restaurant."
Mr Moffatt added that when he went out to see how the driver was, he was relieved to learn he had been unhurt.
"He was dazed and shaking but he was okay," he said.
"It wasn't his fault at all - he had no chance of stopping."
Mr Butler said he wished to avoid discussing the accident in detail because of issues over liability, but he added: "It was a question of either crashing into oncoming traffic or swerving, and I ended up swerving into the wall of the restaurant.
"I'd just left my wife off at the hairdresser and was coming home.
"I don't normally drive up that way - I usually go by Belmont - but I did, and it's just one of those things."
He also told how he was grateful "no one had been walking along the footpath" at the time and that no one was hurt.
Mr Moffatt estimated the restaurant stood to lose between £2,000 and £3,000 after being forced to shut for repairs.
He added that he did not yet know when the business would reopen.
"We have had a builder out and we will need a structural assessment before we know," Mr Moffatt said. "I'm hoping that it won't be long, but I've always been optimistic."
Despite the accident hitting the restaurant in the pocket, Mr Moffatt's overriding feeling was one of relief.
"If there had been anyone sitting there they would have been killed," he said.
"We had literally just opened and the shutters were only up. We're so lucky no one was here."
The part-owner was so relieved he could even see the funny side. "It seems we've opened a new drive-through," he quipped.