A building on Main Street was shuttered for safety reasons after a tow truck crashed through two of its first-floor businesses on Wednesday.
Township officials inspected the Tory Corner building, at 285 Main St., and said it was an “unsafe structure" and an "imminent hazard,” according to Thomas Tracey, the construction official for the township. It will be closed to businesses and residents until repairs are made.
“It is repairable,” said Tracey about the building. “Just because there are structural problems ... does not mean it has to come down.”
A tow truck reportedly lost its brakes at the top of Eagle Rock Avenue near Pals Cabin at about 2 p.m. Wednesday and barreled down the hill. The truck was owned by R&R Towing Service, with locations in South Orange and Maplewood.
Two people were injured in the crash and were sent to Saint Barnabas Medical Center. The truck driver and another person inside one of the businesses received minor injuries.
“Thank god school was closed and there were no fatalities on that accident,” said Ralph Biondi, one of the owners of R&R Towing. “That driver ... hung on to that truck and did probably the best job ... that anybody could do coming down that hill losing his brakes.”
The streets were less crowded at that time because schools were closed in observance for Yom Kippur.
As the tow truck picked up speed traveling down Eagle Rock Avenue, it tore off its side-mirror after grazing a mail truck. The tow truck managed to avoid a collision as it continued down Main Street until it arrived at the intersection of Washington Street.
When it approached Washington Street, the tow truck struck a Toyota mini-van from behind which was driving south on Main Street. The mini-van was pushed into a planter on the sidewalk and then hit another vehicle on one side of Main Street.
The tow truck continued to rush into an outer wall of Machado’s Tailors facing Washington Street and then had enough speed to then drive into the adjacent business in the same building, Financial Services LLC.
The tow truck was totaled in the accident, added Biondi.
Both the tow truck and mini-van managed to avoid crashing into a car stopped in the middle of Main Street which was waiting to make a left turn onto Washington Street.
When the truck hit the building, said Tracey, it not only severely damaged both exterior walls, but also a chimney in the center of the building. The chimney acted as a ventilation for the building's furnaces and hot water heaters. The gas and electric utilities have also been disconnected.
The building was boarded up on Thursday, and yellow tape was strung around its first floor. The sidewalk in front of the building remains open.
The building has businesses running along its first floor on Main and Washington streets. There are also six residential unites on the second and third floors.
The accident is still under investigation, said West Orange Police Sgt. John Morella.