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Van driven into a local eatery
13-year-old boy faces charges
WEB 0217 Van in bldg
A Hinesville police officer works a scene on E.G. Miles Parkway, where a van was driven into a restaurant Tuesday. - photo by Photo by Lewis Levine

A 13-year-old Hinesville boy faces charges after he allegedly drove a vehicle into a Hinesville business Tuesday night. The teen’s identity is being withheld because he is a minor.

Law-enforcement authorities said a passenger van that belonged to the Liberty Training Center, a state-run behavioral health services facility in the 900 block of E.G. Miles Parkway, was stolen. Hinesville Police Detective Jeff Lui said the van was unlocked and the keys were in the ignition.

“We suspect the teen drove off with the vehicle around 6:15 p.m., but actually have no idea where he went with it,” Lui said.

Later that evening, the 911 call center fielded several calls from motorists who reported a white van driving erratically. Lui said authorities are not certain whether the teen was driving the van when the calls came in.

Shortly after 9 p.m., the van driver, who was traveling west on E.G. Miles Parkway, reportedly lost control of the vehicle and plowed into the Crab House restaurant. The van came to a stop near a counter, where eatery owner Aury Wright had been getting ready to pick up the day’s receipts and go home. Wright, who was not injured in the accident, said she was “scared to death” when the vehicle crashed through the wall of the restaurant she and her family have owned for more than 25 years.

“I’m grateful (no one) was hurt in the accident. Like I told the police, material things can be fixed,” she said.

The vehicle knocked down support beams and scattered tables and chairs around the inside of the restaurant, which will be closed for several weeks while repairs are made.

The teen, who never has been in trouble before, according to Lui, faces charges of felony theft by taking the vehicle, driving without a license, reckless driving, simple battery under the family violence act for a verbal altercation and reportedly striking his mother in the back, and runaway juvenile.

The teen later was released to his mother.

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