QUEENS — An out-of-control city plow launched a torrent of snow, ice and debris through the vestibule of a Forest Hills restaurant — sparking at least $50,000 in damage and sending four people to the hospital, the owner said.
The Department of Sanitation plow was speeding more than 50 mph as it passed in front of Exo Cafe, at 70-20 Austin St. on Thursday night — captured on a series of dramatic surveillance tapes that show the vestibule being blown in as if a bomb had gone off, its owner said.
“I’m lost for words,” said owner Peter Kambitsis. “All the debris, including glass bottles and a garbage can, hit our restaurant and broke the vestibule.”
The video recorded by surveillance cameras installed inside the restaurant shows several windows being broken and a woman sitting near the vestibule window, about 10 feet from the curb, being knocked off her seat.
Kambitsis said a number of customers who were sitting inside got hurt, as well as a group of patrons who were smoking cigarettes outside.
Four people went to the hospital with cuts and bruises, but he wasn’t sure how badly they were hurt, he said.
“They were taken to the hospital immediately,” Kambitsis said. “I hope my customers are OK.”
He said he believed the snowplow was moving about 50 to 60 mph and did not stop until the driver reached the traffic light about a block away.
Sanitation Department Chief Keith Mellis said in a statement that it “conducted an investigation on the accident … and is taking disciplinary action against the operators of the equipment.”
Kambitsis said that he had to change out most of the nine broken window panes overnight because he had 126 seats reserved for Valentine’s Day. Each cost about $900.
“There was no way I was going to open [the restaurant] without replacing windows first,” he said.
He estimated that the total damage, including new windows, locks, frames and the awning will exceed $50,000.
“It could have been avoided if they weren’t driving so recklessly,” he said. “It’s dangerous, it’s not a joke.”
He said on the same night snow from a plow broke a window at another restaurant that he owns in Rockville Centre, Long Island.
Earlier this month, another video showed a pedestrian being knocked onto the sidewalk by snow from a plow in Sheepshead Bay. The force also broke a window at a nearby car dealership.