Photo by Heather Middleton
By Kathy Jefcoats
There is no doubt that a car slammed into the front of a Riverdale house Tuesday morning, as the family watched television upstairs.
Who was driving and what caused the crash on Eagles Feather Lane, seems to be in dispute, however.
Salustia Avila, and her three children, were upstairs about 9:30 a.m., when they heard a loud crash and felt the house shake. They ran to the top of the stairs and looked in amazement at the gaping hole in the front of the house.
Building debris were scattered among the livingroom furnishings. The children normally played in that area, said Avila, but luckily, they were all upstairs watching television at the time of the crash.
She was then stunned to see the car reverse from the house and appear to drive away.
"She tried to leave, but came back," said Avila, through an interpreter.
Avila called her husband, Rigoberto Mirabel, who left his job in shipping and receiving, to rush home and check on his family.
"The driver said her brakes failed," said Mirabel, also through an interpreter.
Their son, Luis, 6, also said he saw a "lady driver," inside the car.
But when Clayton County police responded, Michael Oni, 20, who lives in the same subdivision, said he was driving, according police spokesman, Officer Phong Nguyen.
Oni has been charged with running a stop sign and failure to maintain a lane. Nguyen said Oni told officers that his brakes failed as he tried to stop where Eaglets Court intersects with Eagle's Feather Lane, and he also said he told them he didn't see the stop sign.
"When we checked the brakes, they were working," said Nguyen.
Nguyen said officers were investigating the conflicting stories, but for now, Oni has been cited. No one was injured.
Oni could not be reached for comment.
Meanwhile, the crash has displaced the family of five, who bought the house eight years ago. The couple's other children are Angel, 4, and Valeria Sanchez, 2.
The house lost electricity, and gas, upon impact, said Mirabel, and the hole will have to be repaired before the family can live there.
"We will have to relocate," he said. "Right now, we are homeless."
As a family friend looked for a contact number for the American Red Cross, Luis had one question for his father -- "Where are we going to go?"