Businesses clean up after car plows into The Tomato Head

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT)--The driver of the car that slammed into The Tomato Head was 53 year-old Dewayne Kelley.According to his Facebook page, he spent most of his life in Palm Beach where he worked in law enforcement. He retired in 2009 in Knoxville from the U.S. Federal Courts. I got his driving record there are no speeding tickets, or DUI's, but ironically there are two property damage accidents on there in 2004 and one in 2005. We toured the damage at the bird store where his car came to rest.

Stepping into Wild Birds Unlimited there are piles of sheet rock and twisted metal that take the place of bird feeders and displays.
This after the driver of a Chrysler 300 lodged his car deep into the store. Kathy Getsey says, "We're all a little shell shocked. We were told for the next couple of days we will have all kinds of responses and emotional reactions and flashbacks and those sorts of things."

She remembers one customer pinned against the wall here. She crouched behind the counter. Kathy says, "If the car would have come in any closer, we would have been crushed."

Where the car came to rest there is a part of the bumper in the debris.
Also a chair from the restaurant is sitting in the bird store. A huge mess to clean up, plus a lot of inventory gone. It's a loss of tens of thousands of dollars. Outside they've boarded up the store front, but a spray painted message lets people know they've moved. Getsey says, "We're all grateful to be alive and we're cleaning up. We hope our customers come back."

The bird store has re-opened just a few doors down. They were setting up and already had a few customers. The Tomato Head plans to re-open this evening by 6pm.

They are holding a vigil to honor Debbie Thompson Sunday evening at 9:30 in front of the store. Everyone is invited.