AVON PARK – The northbound lanes of U.S. 27 were shut down for about one and a half hours Monday after a man lost control of his car and hit a power pole, shutting down power to one local business.
According to Highlands County Sheriff’s Office deputy Chad Douberley, a 911 call was received at 1:07 p.m. reporting that the driver, John Snellenberger, 91, of 250 W. Lake Trout Drive, Avon Park, had driven off the highway and hit the power pole in the northbound lanes at Locke Street.
At the scene in front of Laye’s Tire Service, 1092 Locke St., part of the approximately 60-foot-tall pole had fallen onto the 1997 Lincoln Towncar which was facing north.
It appears that Snellenberger was traveling southbound when his vehicle jumped the median and began to travel north. He apparently lost control of the vehicle and crashed head-on into a power pole, authorities said.
Snellenberger received injuries, which did not appear to be life threatening, said Nell Hays, Highlands County Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman. Information on his condition was not available Monday afternoon.
A Duke Energy spokeswoman said their crews were assessing the damage and it would likely take a few hours to complete the repairs. The only reported power outage due to the accident was at the Dunkin’ Donuts, 201 U.S. 27, which had its power out for over an hour and a half.
Manager Maysaa Qoran said the accident was very loud. Qoran said about 1:30 p.m. Monday that she was waiting to find out when the power would come back on because her staff would have to take some action if it didn’t that day.
“As soon as we had the accident, all the power went off, and so we went outside and saw the car and the whole pole on top of the car,” she said.
An eyewitness, Ryan Haynie of Avon Park, was having coffee with his fiancee, Tamara Miller, at the Dunkin’ Donuts, when he said they saw the car’s driver slumped over the steering wheel as it was heading south. He said the car did a U-turn and hit the median before slamming into the pole and guessed the car was traveling about 25 mph when it made impact.
Haynie said he immediately called 911 after the transformer blew up with a loud bang.
“It hit the pole and I heard the crack; the transformer came down on top. I ran outside and stopped traffic and the police were there about a minute later,” he said.
Sheriff’s deputies were on hand to redirect traffic east on west Bell Street and north up Anoka Avenue to bypass U.S. 27. The highway was reopened in both directions shortly after 2:30 p.m.
Hays said repairs were being made to the power pole and lines in the area and alternate routes were suggested until repairs were complete.