A community was in mourning Wednesday after a speeding SUV crashed into a Newton restaurant, killing two people and injuring seven others.
As police continued to investigate, mourners placed flowers near the scene, where wooden boards had been erected in front of the eatery’s glass, street-facing facade.
The car, driving at a high speed, was headed north on Chestnut Street and crossed Washington Street just after 6 p.m. when it smashed into the Sweet Tomatoes pizza restaurant, authorities told reporters.
The Middlesex District Attorney Marian Ryan’s office Wednesday evening identified the two victims killed in the crash asGregory D. Morin, 32, of Newton, and Eleanor Miele, 57, of Watertown. Both were customers inside the restaurant at the time of the collision, according to a release.
Three customers sustained injuries: a 30-year-old man from Brockton as well as a man and woman, ages 44 and 35, from Newton.
Four employees were also injured:a 19-year-old woman from Marshfield, a 27-year-old woman from Waltham and two men from Dedham – one is 34, the other is 32.
Ryan identified the driver only as a 55-year-old man from Newton who was also injured in the crash. His license has been suspended, the release said.
Ryan’s office, as well as state and local police are investigating. No charges have been filed.
The restaurant “sustained significant structural damage,” the release said.
“It sounded like a bomb went off,” a witness, who didn’t want to be identified, told WCVB. “The building shook, and alarms started going off. People were screaming. They were hurt. We went inside, and we were pulling rubble and debris off of people.”
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According to family members who spoke with reporters,Miele – one of the two killed in the crash – had been picking up a pizza on her way to an Easter basket-packing event at a nearby church at the time of the collision, they said.
“I’m just heartbroken,” Patricia Desmond, her sister-in-law, told WCVB. “[The driver] took a beautiful woman away. She was my little sister, and she was the best.”
Andy Hochman, founding partner of the lawfirm where Miele worked for 12 years, told Metro the sudden death of a beloved employee has left “a void.”
“She held things together for us in the office. She was very, very generous person and a very good person,” Hochman said. “She knew all of our clients — made it her business to get to know people. Just a real people person with a tremendous personality.
“We’re going to have a void to fill,” he said. “It’s going to be tough.”
In a tweet early Wednesday morning, the Newton Police Department shared a message of grief: “Our heartfelt thoughts and prayers to all the victims and their families in last night’s tragedy.”
In a statement on Facebook, Newton Mayor Setti Warreninvited mourners to join him for a vigil near the Newton Police Headquarters at 1321 Washington St. in West Newton at 6:30 p.m. He said first responders and clergy would also be there for the ceremony.
“This tragedy has touched us all, and we are offering this event as an opportunity for our community to stand together in remembrance of the victims,” Warren wrote.