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Mori Kessler, St. George News, File

Warrant: Man who plowed into restaurant doesn’t remember accelerating

By Pat Reavy, KSL | Posted - Feb. 5, 2020 at 8:00 a.m.



SALT LAKE CITY — The driver of a vehicle that crashed into an In-N-Out Burger fast-food restaurant in Washington City in December said he doesn’t remember ever pressing the accelerator, according to court documents.

A search warrant affidavit unsealed Tuesday provided new details into the deadly crash in southern Utah.

On Dec. 14, a 2011 Chevrolet Traverse SUV crashed into In-N-Out Burger, 832 W. Telegraph St., killing one person inside the restaurant and injuring at least six others.

Antonio Mendoza-Garcia, 42, of Las Vegas, had been seated inside the restaurant where the vehicle hit it, according to police, and died of his injuries.

According to a newly unsealed search warrant affidavit filed in 5th District Court, the driver of the SUV, from St. George, told police he had backed out of a parking stall slowly, but when he put the vehicle in drive it “accelerated rapidly.”

“(The driver) stated he doesn’t remember pressing the accelerator. He just recalls not being able to slow down and that he just held on for the ride and attempted to steer the vehicle as it continued to accelerate. The next thing he knew is he crashed into the In-N-Out Burger building and the air bags had deployed,” the warrant states.

The man’s wife was in the passenger seat at the time of the crash, according to the warrant.

One man said he was walking across the parking lot when the SUV sped toward him.

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“He was attempting to hurry across when he was struck on his right side by the Chevrolet Traverse. This impact threw him to the ground onto his left side. The witness then watched as the vehicle continued to accelerate away from him and then strike the In-N-Out building,” the warrant states.

Several witnesses told police that the driver “seemed to be angry or frustrated when he drove by. I documented the scene with photos. Officers documented the final resting of the vehicle, inside and outside of the vehicle with damage. I observed the yaw marks left by the Traverse on scene and noticed no braking or skid marks,” the warrant states.

Police conducted follow-up questions with the driver “about him possibly being in a panic when he hit the accelerator,” according to the warrant. His answer “revealed that he may have but is not sure entirely.”

Detectives sought in the warrant to collect data from the SUV as part of their investigation. As of Tuesday, no charges had been filed.

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