A semi driver told police he was sneezing before his truck collided with a tree and then crashed into a Centerville eatery.

Centerville Police Chief Ed Buchholz said a cab and trailer driven by James Salmi of Georgia hit a tree in the 200 block of East Main Street on Wednesday afternoon.

That collision shot him to the right, where his semi for an Oklahoma company crashed into the west corner of Americana Pizza during lunchtime.

Despite the potential for a tragic outcome, only minor injuries were reported after the 12:12 p.m. crash for the driver and a customer picking up an order at the counter. Both declined treatment at the scene.

Salmi told police he’d received scratches, and the customer said debris hit her and knocked her to the floor.

None of the three employees on duty were injured.

Americana Pizza co-owner Jennifer Robertson said those inside were “very lucky.”

Only minor injuries were reported after the semi crashed into Americana Pizza. Photo by Millie Martin Emery

She credits the beams that she didn’t know existed until seeing her building torn apart with saving their lives.  

Robertson and her husband, Chad, were not at the restaurant at the time of the crash because they both have additional jobs in addition to owning the restaurant for six years. Jennifer works in the administration building for Centerville-Abington Community Schools, and Chad does construction.  

This was the second time a vehicle collided with Americana Pizza in the last few months.

In the earlier incident, a juvenile driver’s foot slipped off the brakes and went to the gas pedal. No one was hurt in that accident, either.

Jennifer said the exterior had just been repainted the previous week after that accident, and some work remained to restore the interior.

She said they will take the repairs “one step at a time” after structural and health department inspections take place. Gas and electricity were immediately turned off after the crash.

“It’s going to be a little bit” before reopening, she said.

Jennifer became choked up when sharing her appreciation for firefighters, police, utility workers and other first responders.

In addition to CPD, those on scene included Centerville Fire/Rescue, Richmond Fire Department, which assisted with the technical rescue request, Wayne County Sheriff’s Department, Reid Health EMS, CenterPoint Energy, Centerville Utilities, Indiana State Police Motor Carrier Unit, Wayne County Emergency Communications and Englewood (Ohio) Truck Towing & Recovery.

A tow truck prepares to haul the crashed semi away. Photo by Millie Martin Emery

“You can tell they’re trained and skilled in what they do,” she said.

Jennifer is also grateful for the many residents who immediately expressed concern through instant technology.

“My phone blew up with everyone wanting to make sure no one was hurt,” she said.

Bob Crowe was among the Centerville residents surprised to see the accident’s aftermath, and grateful to learn no one was injured. He discovered something was amiss when he had to go around the traffic barricades to take mail to the post office across the street from Americana.

“I know some people who work in there and I know the owners,” said Crowe, an occasional Americana customer who calls the eatery “a handy institution to have around town.”

“I hope it doesn’t affect their business over the years,” he said. “I think everyone in town has eaten in there before.”

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Millicent Martin Emery is a reporter and editor for the Western Wayne News.