Genevieve Sheldon and her husband, Carl, 81, were celebrating her 95th birthday with a dinner at the L’incontro Italian Restaurant in Lake Wales, when tragedy struck, Monday.
According to Lake Wales Police reports, at approximately 4:19 p.m., their meal was violently interrupted when a 2003 Jeep Liberty crashed through the front wall of the restaurant.
Witnesses told police the driver of the Jeep, whom police identified as 22-year-old Conor E. Sullivan of Lake Wales, was traveling eastbound on State Road 60 and lost control of the vehicle.
The Jeep left the roadway, drove through the parking lot of the restaurant, at 35 State Road 60, and right through the front of the restaurant.
Police say the couple, residents of Indian Lake Estates, were seated inside the restaurant near the wall Sullivan crashed through. Both were injured by the impact, including lacerations, internal pains and disorientation, police say.
Carl was taken from the scene by ambulance to Lakeland Regional Medical Center and Genevieve was airlifted by medical helicopter. According to reports, the couple is listed in stable condition on Tuesday.
There was a third customer dining inside at the time of the crash and several employees were on duty. No injuries were reported by the employees, according to police.
However, police say that after crashing into the restaurant, Sullivan exited the vehicle and fled on foot eastbound on S.R. 60.
Police located Sullivan on Domaris Avenue between McGee Tires and Citizen’s Bank.
“During this encounter Sullivan resisted arrest but was taken into custody,” according to LWPD Deputy Chief Troy Schulze. Sullivan was identified by witnesses as the driver of the vehicle, police say. Sullivan received non-life threatening injuries as a result of the crash and was transported to Lake Wales Medical Center for treatment.
Police say that as of this point in the investigation, Sullivan is being charged with leaving the scene of an accident with personal injuries, driving while license is suspended or revoked, and resisting arrest. As the investigation continues, additional charges may be forthcoming.
By phone, Tuesday, the owner of L’incontro, Frank Rivera, had little to say.
“We are doing OK, besides the damage,” he said.
Tuesday afternoon, the front of the restaurant was roped off, and employees could be seen carrying furniture out of the restaurant, and declined comment on the situation, simply saying that they were just trying to get things “cleaned up.”
Rivera was taking a day off and was at home, Monday, when he received the news of the accident.
A neighbor had knocked on his door and told him that something had happened to the restaurant.