Miracle escape as van runs away in Seaton

Normally busy shopping street was empty as van careered down hill and ploughed into store

SHOPPERS in Seaton had a lucky escape when a runaway van careered down Fore Street.

The driverless vehicle gathered speed down the normally busy, steep main street before crashing into the front of the Brainwave charity shop.

Locals said it was a “miracle” no one was hurt or killed.

A store volunteer told The Herald: “The shop is usually packed with customers and people standing in the doorway. If it had been half term you could have had half a dozen dead people. They would not have heard the van behind them as it ran down the hill with its engine off.”

Unusually the Brainwave store was empty when the van hit on Thursday afternoon, with just supervisor Angela Drakes, 62, standing at the back, behind the counter.

Glass showered across the store just feet away from her as the vehicle smashed into one of the two bay windows.

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She said: “There was an enormous bang and at first I thought someone had leant against the window and it had fallen in. Then I saw the van and realised what had happened. and how lucky we were no one was hurt.

“It had been a rubbish day, with just eight people in the shop and hardly anyone in the street. On another day customers could have been hit by the glass. I am just counting my blessings I was not hurt or anyone else. But it was quite a shock and I was a bit tearful afterwards and the next day.”

Mrs Drake’s partner, and fellow Brainwave volunteer, John Foxwell, rushed to the shop after hearing what had happened.

He said: “She was a bit shocked when I arrived. Thankfully there had been no one in the shop, which is usually full, or the doorway where people congregate and there was no one in the street at the time.”

Mr Foxwell said the van had been left parked near the former Kettle restaurant, opposite the dentists where the two young Bristol men were working.

He said: “The young driver from Bristol broke down when he saw what had happened . He was petrified that someone had been killed under the front of his van.”

Mr Foxwell said checks had confirmed that the handbrake had been on but it was thought the brakes may have loosened as they cooled after the long journey from Bristol.

Police say they are still investigating what caused the van to run away.

Brainwave manager Paul Evans said it appeared no one was to blame and they were just grateful no one was hurt.

“It was a miracle,” he said.

“The driver was quite distraught but the police and fire service were absolutely fantastic.”