Drunkcrashes into real estate office

Published on Thu, Aug 12, 2004 by ivian Bleecker

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Drunk crashes into real estate office

By Vivian Bleecker

After completely remodeling the former Clamdigger Restaurant less than two years ago, Carl and Diane Dufton, owners and operators of Bay Properties/Semiahmoo Homes, Inc., didn’t expect to be remodeling again quite so soon. And they never had plans for drive-up service.

The Birch Bay couple has literally been trying to put the pieces back together since a 22-year-old Blaine man crashed his car through a side wall of their Birch Bay Drive real esate business on August 5, causing $30,000 to $50,000 in damage.

Russell R. Lowery, the driver of the 1969 Ford LTD, escaped serious injury in the 2 a.m. accident but field sobriety tests at the scene revealed his blood alcohol level to be .142 and .139. The statutory threshold defining “legally drunk” is .08. Lowery was arrested for driving under the influence and appeared in Whatcom County district court, pleading not guilty August 6 according to the District Court clerk’s office. A trial date could not be confirmed before press time.
Chief Criminal Deputy Jeff Parks said Lowery was heading north on Birch Bay Drive at about 2 a.m. August 5 when he failed to stop at the three-way intersection at the bottom of Harborview Drive, laying about 75 feet of skid marks before and after the stop sign. He took out the other stop sign and drove across the curb and into the building, stopping only after hitting the stone fireplace inside, according to reports. The speed limit along Birch Bay Drive is 20 miles per hour.
“There were even skid marks on the carpet inside,” Carl Dufton said.

The crash sent shattered glass, broken furniture, computers and “a desk airborne, crashing onto another one across the room,” he said.
Police reports indicate that Lowery left the scene of the accident and called 911, telling sheriff’s officials he would return to the scene when they arrived. Chief Parks said Lowery was not injured, but reported “minor cuts and complained of some knee pain.”

“It’s an upsetting, freakish thing,” Dufton said. “Day one you’re kind of dazed and by day two you’re just frustrated, knowing what’s ahead - a month of insurance adjustors, contractors, remodeling.” The Duftons reopened a few days after the accident. “Please pardon our dust as we go through this restoration,” Carl Dufton said. “We hope to have everything up and running within a month.”

Dufton said in addition to the structural damage, the accident destroyed four office desks, computers, printers, telephones, chairs, and other office furniture and supplies. The damaged goods, including the broken furniture and glass, were removed on Monday by Northwest Professional once Crown Enterprises had pulled the vehicle out and towed it away.

Dufton, whose business is insured by St. Paul Insurance, said Pacific Engineering was scheduled to do a full inspection, testing the structural integrity of the building before bidding and restoration could be done. In the meantime, Dufton and friends have manufactured and secured a plywood wall and have moved several work stations upstairs to keep the business operational. Future remodeling plans may include installation of bollard posts around the parking area to insure this kind of accident does not occur again, Dufton said. “It’s frightening to think what would have happened if the accident had happened in the daytime - I am certain there would have been people killed.”