Report: 15-year-old driver at fault for multi-car crash that destroyed Bennett’s Ace Hardware

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Action News Jax has learned new details about a dramatic crash that caused a semi-truck to plow through Bennett’s Ace Hardware on Jacksonville’s Westside last Friday.

In a crash report released by the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office Thursday, a 15-year-old driver is cited as the cause of the incident that left five people hurt, including two of the store’s owners who were inside at the time.

According to the report, the teenage girl, who only has a learners’ permit, was attempting to turn onto Cahoon Road from Beaver Street when she pulled directly into the path of a sand truck. The report shows an 11-year-old was sitting in her passenger seat, but no adult was there. Florida law requires that teen drivers who have their learner permit be supervised at all times by another licensed driver who is at least 21 years old.

Action News Jax showed you dashcam footage, which captured the intense crash and the teen driver claimed she had a green arrow, but the report says dashcam footage shows otherwise. Action News Jax is not naming the driver because of her age.

A video that was recorded from a dash-mounted camera from inside the semi was released Wednesday and showed the semi driver had a green light at the time of the collision. The video showed the truck T-bone the sedan and crash into the store just seconds after. The trucking company told Action News Jax its driver was going 32 mph in the 35 mph zone.

RELATED STORY: Dashcam video show moments leading up to Ace Hardware crash

“I feel bad for them because I don’t know if it was a case of, they had no choice,” Jonas Belizaire said. Belizaire is listed in the report and said his SUV was hit by the truck. He said his life flashed before his eyes when he saw the truck coming. He said he was leaving after picking up an extra house key when suddenly, a trip to the hardware store turned into a near-death experience.

“I got in the truck, threw my seatbelt on, threw it in reverse because I was tired and I was trying to get home,” he said. “As I threw it in reverse and start to backup, I heard a big boom and I look to my right and I saw the whole thing coming.”

Belizaire said he was thankful only the front part of his SUV came off.

“I feel like it’s a miracle because when I looked up the whole truck was coming for my truck and all of sudden it shifted, hit just the front and went into the building,” he said.

Glenn Bennett is family member of the store’s owners and didn’t comment on the report details but told Action News Jax that once he found out what happened he drove there immediately. “They were both seriously injured of course and both of them are still hospitalized,” Bennett said.

The 15-year-old was cited for failure to yield to oncoming traffic and a learner’s permit violation.

The building has since been condemned and will be demolished. As for Bennett, he said seeing the family business like this is heartbreaking.

RELATED STORY: ‘Debris everywhere:’ New video shows interior of Ace Hardware moments after truck plows through

“Well since our business was started by my parents in 1959, it’s been a main stay in that community for over 60 years,” he said. “I know it’s the family desire to see that business rebuilt in some way or form.”

Action News Jax also reached out to other people listed in the report but was either told ‘no comment’ or didn’t get a response.

Samantha Mathers

Samantha Mathers, Action News Jax

Samantha Mathers is a digital reporter and content creator for Action News Jax.