The Gravesend section of Brooklyn was rocked to the core late on Monday evening, when an alleged drunk driver slammed his speeding vehicle into a vacant building on 496 Avenue P at the corner of East 5th Street at approximately 11:40 pm, causing the structure to collapse.
By: Fern Sidman
According to a CBS News report, surveillance video shows the car speeding down Avenue P before turning left onto East 5th Street and smashing into the building on the corner. The vacant storefront on the ground floor crumbled, and the apartments on the second floor collapsed. Fortunately, no one was home.
Police said the 20-year-old driver, Andrew Baird, was under the influence of alcohol at the time of the crash and fled from authorities on foot. According to the CBS News report, Baird eventually admitted to police that he was behind the wheel of a 2018 BMW, when he claims that he lost control of the vehicle. Baird was later charged with operating a motor vehicle with alcohol in his system below the age of 21 and leaving the scene of an accident.
Despite his injuries, Baird was somehow able to escape the scene of the disaster, According to a Channel 12 television report, Flatbush Safety Patrol volunteers (Shomrim) say they spotted Baird running down neighboring Kings Highway with blood on his face.
The patrol volunteers reported that they asked him what happened and he told them that he crashed. The patrol held him at the location until police arrived, where he was then taken into custody. It’s still unclear whether there may have been a passenger who also took off. Baird was taken to the hospital with non-life-threatening injuries. No one else was seriously injured.
The Department of Buildings have said that the impact dislodged several supports in the building, which ultimately caused the building to collapse. Officials say the people who lived on the second floor of the building were not home at the time of the crash. The first floor was an empty commercial business, according to the Channel 12 report.
PIX 11 reported that engineers on the scene also determined that the rest of the building was similarly in danger of collapse, and that a structural party wall, between 496 Avenue P and the neighboring building at 494 Avenue P, had been compromised by the damage, DOB said.
As a result, a Full Vacate Order was issued and ordered a construction fence to be installed around the property, the department said in a statement, according to the PIX 11 report.
“I saw the house shake, because I was already sleeping, and I got up. Oh my god, I felt like something was going to happen. It sounded like an explosion,” neighbor Diana Ramirez told CBS2’s Aundrea Cline-Thomas.
Ramirez said her family had to wait outside for hours before they were given the all-clear.
“’You can’t go into your house, get what you need and come back out.’ They told police to take us up if everything was OK, and we came back out,” she said.
The FDNY said in a tweet that more than 100 of its members were at the scene to help assist. Crews are not beginning to clean up the debris.
“We tried to look before to help, but couldn’t see anybody,” another neighbor added.
“There’s always accidents on Avenue P, whether it’s over here or over there,” said Benjamin Hayon, who works nearby. “Avenue P is just always accident-prone for some reason. It doesn’t make sense, but it is.”
The Red Cross is assisting residents from the damaged building and the one next door who are not allowed to return home.
The building owners were ordered to properly shore up the party wall and install a sidewalk shed in the front of the building.
A small parking lot behind the collapsed building at 1710 East 5 Street was issued a partial vacate order due to their proximity to the collapsed building, according to the PIX 11 report.