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Local News

Lotus Boutique Employee Narrowly Escapes Vehicle Crashing Into Building

Erin Duffy recalls fleeing to the back room of the Chapala Street store seconds before the collision that caused nearly $5,000 in damage

When Lotus Boutique employee Erin Duffy looked out the Chapala Street store’s front window on Wednesday, all she saw were headlights coming toward her.

Duffy had just enough time to run into the back room before a vehicle crashed through the front of the store, at 637 Chapala St. in Santa Barbara.

“It was really crazy. ... I nearly missed getting hit,” she told Noozhawk on Thursday, recalling the Wednesday afternoon collision that destroyed the store’s front and has left the locally owned boutique with nearly $5,000 worth of damage.

She and other employees worked Thursday to clean up debris and inventory the store. The boutique sells organic clothing, gifts, and handmade crafts and jewelry.

No one was injured in the incident, and no one else was in the store with Duffy at the time.

Just before 4 p.m., a driver allegedly ran a red light at the intersection of Chapala and Ortega streets, T-boned another car and sent it straight toward the store’s front. The driver then accidentally hit the gas, and Duffy recalled watching the car spin around and come right for the building.

All four of his tires blew as he hit the wall.

The driver of the car who crashed into the storefront was deaf, Duffy said, and though she couldn’t communicate with him, they both understood the gratitude each felt to have escaped.

On Thursday, workers were replacing the pane of glass in the store’s front window, and were shocked that it didn’t shatter. The pane had been treated with a coating to help prevent graffiti and scratching, and instead of shattering, it bent inward almost 6 inches.

Boutique owner Erica Forbes-Ortiz lost her home in the Tea Fire in 2008, and the Chapala store flooded in November 2010. Wednesday’s accident left both her and Duffy shaken — but grateful.

“We are sitting here just in shock of the surreal events that have occurred,” she said. “I’m so glad that Erin is alive.”

Noozhawk staff writer Lara Cooper can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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