LITTLE CANADA, Minn. - The day after a bizarre accident that captured national attention, those involved are grateful that no one was killed. The incident at Gordie's Place on Little Canada Road happened around 1:30 p.m. Wednesday.
"It sounded like an implosion, like it was blowing on the inside, like a bomb went off," recalled Charles Belland, 46, of Centerville. Belland left his Belland and Sons Auto Repair shop moments earlier and had yet to sip a beer when a truck driven by Christine Spiritwolf, 49, of Fridley busted through the wall of the tavern and crushed patrons against the bar.
"I had just walked in the door. I did not even have anything to drink," said Belland, who credited his sober state with being a factor in his actions. "I was blowing around in the bar and flipped around tables were flying and I seen people getting smashed. Then there's a big, old Chevrolet blue Silverado sitting in the bar."
Belland rushed to the truck. "Her foot was wide open on the throttle. It was sitting there just doing a 'burn out' right there in the bar, pushing against the people at the bar. I got it shut off and then Jim (Cossack, son of the bar owner) and I proceeded to get the damn thing pulled back because they were pinned, literally. I thought they were dead."
Belland accidentally may have saved Bartender and manager Pat Sazenski's life when he called him over just before the incident. "As I was walking over to hear what Chuck had to say, I looked out the window and out of my eye I caught the telephone pole flying through the parking lot and I thought, boy, that's odd. Then I heard a boom and then the truck flew right through the wall."
Six people were taken to Regions Hospital in Saint Paul after the accident. Some were still there as of Thursday afternoon. Others, including Spiritwolf, were treated and released. It is believed that she suffered a diabetic attack that caused her to lose control of her vehicle. Kare11 contacted Spiritwolf's home, but she made no comment on Thursday. There are no charges pending against Spiritwolf, according to Ramsey County officials.
An undercover narcotics investigator for Ramsey County coincidentally was driving near the scene when he saw the accident and quickly intervened to help. A sheriff's spokesman denied that the officer was following Spiritwolf's truck because she was speeding. The officer had been involved in a narcotics bust in another town.
All of those survivors Kare11 was able to contact expressed gratitude that there was no loss of life.
Owner Tom Cossack said he intends to rebuild and reopen the 74-year old watering hole. He also extended an invitation to Volleyball leagues that play on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays at Gordie's Place. Cossack said he will have free beer available at the volleyball court, even though the bar is closed.
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