Banana truck crash destroys 1745 Mass. building

June 24, 2012 - 3:25 PM

SEEKONK, Mass. (AP) — An out-of-control tractor-trailer carrying bananas crashed into a natural gas main and ignited an explosion on Sunday morning, setting fire to an 18th-century building that housed a tavern and destroying it.

Fire officials in Seekonk, about 6 miles east of Providence, R.I., said the 18-wheeler fell on its side and slid into the Old Grist Mill Tavern, whose website says the building was constructed in 1745 for grinding grain raised by area farmers.

The truck "slid along the ground and took out the gas main and the electrical lines," tavern owner Greg Esmay told The Providence Journal newspaper. "There was a pretty good explosion, and it started a fire."

No one was in the building at the time. Esmay, of Warwick, R.I., said the building was destroyed and would have to be demolished.

The truck driver was taken to a hospital in Providence. It was unclear how serious his injuries were or whether he would face charges.

The cause of the crash was under investigation.

Esmay said there was a chimney fire at the building in 1957, and the restaurant and bar area were rebuilt afterward. He said he wasn't sure whether he will rebuild and he was concerned about his 50 employees.

Area resident David Elderkin, who lives two houses down from the restaurant, told Attleboro's The Sun Chronicle newspaper that he heard loud noises after the crash. When he went to see what happened, he said, he saw flames that were taller than the utility poles on the street.

"It sounded like a jet engine," he said. "This is a sad day. This is a very popular restaurant."