Bus drives through shop

NASHUA – A local ice cream parlor is temporarily out of business after a small bus carrying several residents from a Milford nursing home drove through its back wall early Tuesday night.

No one was hurt in the 4:21 p.m. crash at Bruster’s Old Fashioned Ice Cream and Yogurt at 621 Amherst St., however the owner of the business, who was busy making ice cream on the other side of the wall, just missed getting creamed herself.

“My heart just started beating again,” said owner Dawn Croteau about an hour after the freak crash.

Croteau said she jumped back as the west-side wall of the building came crashing in toward her, pushing an approximately 9-foot-long metal cooler filled with ice cream along with it.

Her husband, Bill Croteau, was working at his desk across the room from where she was and also watched as the bus pushed through a 7-foot section of the wall, knocking down an upper shelf loaded with plastic ware with a deafening crash.

“I thought it was an earthquake by the sound of it,” Bill Croteau said.

One other employee was in the front portion of the restaurant at the time of crash, and had just finished filling a large ice cream order for the occupants of the van, the couple said.

The couple said they ran outside to the other side of the wall and found a female driver sitting calmly behind the wheel of the bus with Harborside Healthcare written on the side, who told them that it was only an accident.

A large portion of the sidewall of the restaurant was caved in and a metal bench that had been sitting next to it was wrecked as well, Bill Croteau said.

Nashua police Sgt. Mike Masella identified the driver of the van as Kim Ontiri, 47, of Peterborough and said her three passengers, ages 55, 76 and 83, were listed as residents at Harborside Healthcare at 40 Crosby St. in Milford.

Masella said Ontiri told police that she was speaking to her passengers in the rear of the van when she felt the van rolling forward and attempted to hit the brake.

However instead of hitting the brakes, Ontiri told police she hit the gas instead, causing the van to drive into the side of the building.

The crash was determined to be an accident and no alcohol nor any other substances were suspected to be a factor in the crash, he said.

Nashua Fire Rescue Lt. Karl Gerhard said Merrimack fire crews were first to respond to the restaurant and evacuated the building upon arrival.

Gas to the building was also shut off since the crash had severed a gas line near the ceiling.

Although the couple was allowed back into the building, the business will not be allowed to open to the public until the city building inspector deems it safe to do so, fire officials said.

Dawn Croteau said the building is a prefabricated structure and that she and her husband were trying to contact the company for information about what to do.

The van sustained minor damage in the crash.

Officials at Harborside Healthcare could not be reached for comment on the crash.