Vehicle crashes through hair salon on Highway 49

Incident leaves clients, employees shaken but uninjured
By: Andrew Westrope, Staff Writer
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An Auburn woman drove her Cadillac through the storefront of a hair salon on Friday, injuring no one but causing thousands of dollars of damages.

Sgt. Ed Clark of the Placer County Sheriff’s Office said the driver, 89-year-old Melva Voigt of Auburn, had just left The Hair Depot on Grass Valley Highway at 10:55 a.m. when the accident occurred.

“My understanding was, she was parked in front of the business, and her foot slipped off the brake, evidently,” he said. “That’s what we’re assuming right now, and she broke through the front of the business.”

The vehicle smashed through a door and front window, then came to rest with about two-thirds of its length inside the building.

Newcastle resident Tamra Nelson, who was sitting inside as a customer at the time of the incident, said it was a miracle no one was hurt.

“We were just sitting here, and pretty soon we heard this, like, explosion, and we see her coming through the front door, window, and it just kept coming. It was just God’s hand that just stopped it. Nobody was sitting in that bench, nobody was at the counter … Everybody was just where they needed to be. There was a lady in the dryer right next to it,” she said. “(Voigt) just said her foot got stuck on the gas, and she had certain shoes on, and – we are just praising God that we are all safe.”

Store owner Marty Thompson and building owner William Eisley said The Hair Depot may have to close for a few days of repairs, but they agreed with Nelson on the take-home point.

“Nobody got hurt,” Eisley said. “That’s all that matters.”

Officer Eric Karla of the California Highway Patrol said Voigt would require a “priority reexamination” to determine whether she is fit to drive.

“What’s typical in a case like this … is just a reexam of the driver. There are no vehicle code sections she violated because this is private property, but in either case, what we do is, we evaluate her. She’s not under the influence of anything, she’s just elderly,” he said. “It forces (the driver’s) hand to go to the Department of Motor Vehicles. They have to make an appointment, and if they don’t do that, they become suspended.”

After surveying the damage, Placer County Building Inspector Jack Venable said the car took out a door, a window section and the center column between them that was supporting two headers below the awning. He said there was also minor damage to the electrical systems of two workstations at the front of the store.

“There doesn’t appear to be any movement of the structure, so I don’t think there’s any imminent possibility  of collapse, but what I told (Eisley) is to get it shored as soon as possible and keep the public away from the opening,” he said. “Given he is going to have to call somebody on an emergency and get them off another job, he could be looking at a bill from $5,000 to $7,000, and that’s not even including the lost products and work stations inside.”

Venable expected Eisley’s insurance to take the lead in handling the incident, but it may pass along much of the cost to Voigt. He added that the building could be patched quickly to reopen the store as soon as Monday, but guessed Eisley would prefer the more time-consuming approach of restoring the façade to what it was.

“It depends on what he wants to do,” he said. “If he wants to follow the old architecture, like the old window style, he’s going to have to have somebody make those up.”