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Ireland’s Four Courts boarded up on 9/15/22 (staff photo)

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Storefront safety is now top-of-mind for Ireland’s Four Courts after a rideshare driver plowed into the pub and sparked a fire, seriously injuring several people.

While those injured were inside the restaurant, safety advocates say this crash demonstrates why many have concerns about outdoor dining and nightlife, as well as traffic configurations that rely on everyone driving perfectly. For Four Courts, the crash is a chance to rebuild with a greater focus on safety.

“Since the accident, storefront and patio safety is most definitely our highest priority as we plan our reopening,” Managing Partner Dave Cahill said. “I think installing safety bollards in the front of business locations like ours would eliminate the risk of vehicles crashing into buildings and pedestrians.”

Arlington County is more than a year into an initiative to eliminate traffic fatalities and serious injuries. But because storefront crashes like this one are so rare, they aren’t the focus of Vision Zero efforts, according to the county. Instead, this initiative to eliminate traffic serious injuries and fatalities focuses on locations within Arlington’s High Injury Network.

“These types of crashes are often high-profile, but are uncommon,” says Dept. of Environmental Services spokeswoman Katie O’Brien.

Since 2017, 0.25% of total critical crashes, or 32 out of 13,035, involved a driver hitting a building. Two of these crashes — excluding the Courthouse crash — involved a visible, but not severe, injury, while the remainder resulted in property damage only.

Still, it has restaurateur David Guas, of Bayou Bakery, who watched the crash happen, thinking more about safety as well.

“Witnessing it first hand, I had a flash in the pan thought, ‘someone could’ve come down N. Veitch and into Bayou,'” he said. “Technically, it could happen, especially if this is a freak medical emergency.”

Police announced last month that the rideshare driver who drove straight in to the long-time pub likely suffered a medical emergency and will not face charges.

Risk factors

There are a lot of factors that put people at risk near storefronts, according to Storefront Safety Council cofounder Rob Reiter.

“Outdoor dining is inherently more risky,” says Reiter. “Speeds are up everywhere and… you’re always one drunk away from someone accelerating into a crowd.”

Nationally, based on statistics the council has compiled from news reports, court records and studies, the most common reasons are operator error and pedal confusion, followed by drunk driving.

Storefront crash causes (via Storefront Safety Council)

In Arlington, of the serious crashes into a building, almost 30% involved a drunk driver, O’Brien said.

A driver suffering a “medical event” in a crash, as is believed to have happened with Four Courts, is fairly common, Reiter says. Council data indicate medical events make up 9% of storefront crashes.

The bigger issue here, Reiter said, is that the pub sits at a “T” intersection.

These are common in Arlington, in areas of low speed limits and multiple traffic signals and traffic signs, O’Brien said. The intersection ending in Ireland’s Four Courts “was and is being looked at for redesign, as is standard,” she added.

Another hairy traffic configuration is when perpendicular parking abuts the entrance to a store, said another Storefront Safety Council cofounder, Mark Wright, who was hit 14 years ago by a woman who rolled through a parking spot and into the 7-Eleven he was exiting.

While it is convenient, Wright said, “it’s a very risky parking arrangement and obviously parking is a critical component of any thriving, successful shopping center.”

Per Storefront Safety Council data, 23% of crashes involved retail stores and 19% involved restaurants.

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(Updated at 2:40 p.m.) The rideshare driver who crashed into Ireland’s Four Courts in Courthouse last month likely experienced “a medical emergency” before driving into the building, police say.

This preliminary explanation comes after Arlington County police previously ruled out drunk driving as well as malicious intent.

The crash set fire to the popular pub, situated next to the “T” intersection of N. Courthouse Road and Wilson Blvd, during a local company’s happy hour event. It triggered a large emergency response and road closures as people fled the fiery scene. More than a dozen people were hurt.

Police said today that all three pub-goers who were hospitalized with serious, potentially life-threatening injuries have now been released — a little over a month after they were admitted. One patient was still in critical condition and two others were in stable condition within a week of the crash.

The seriously injured people are expected to undergo a rehabilitation process as they continue to recover, we’re told.

In all, 15 people were injured, including nine brought to local hospitals. Of them, three were Four Courts employees hospitalized for less serious injuries, including smoke inhalation.

Four Courts Managing Partner Dave Cahill told ARLnow that the patrons who were seriously injured may not have survived but for other quick-thinking fellow pub-goers, including a volunteer firefighter, as well as first responders who arrived on scene just moments after the crash.

“Our thoughts and prayers have been with them for this whole time,” Cahill said of the victims. “They’re regulars who come in here all the time… we’re happy that they’ve started the next stage of recovery.”

Building inspectors determined that Four Courts is structurally sound but not fit for occupancy due to the extensive damage.

The pub is planning to rebuild, funded in part by a now-closed GoFundMe campaign that blew well past its $50,000 goal, raising just over $95,000. Tonight, fellow Arlington Irish pub Samuel Beckett’s (2800 S. Randolph Street) is hosting a fundraiser and silent auction for Four Courts staff.

Cahill told ARLnow today that insurance and other matters are still being worked out before construction can begin that would allow at least part of the pub to reopen. If demolition starts soon, he said, the best case scenario would be reopening in late spring or early summer of 2023.

When the doors swing back open, he wants customers to feel like nothing has changed, and for regulars to request the same TV channels and sit in the same seats they’ve sat in for years.

“We’re going to work and recreate Four Courts as close back to the original as possible,” he said. “We don’t want people to walk in here and think they’re in a different place. Things will be updated, obviously, but we want people to feel at home in the Four Courts.”

The only thing that many repeat customers would miss would be their personal mugs. Four Courts had a mug club with more than 1,475 mugs people purchased; added their names, football team logos and family crests to; and drank from whenever they came in.

“We lost a lot of mugs,” he said. “When the fire came, it melted the mug and left the handle. We’re sad about that. That was a big part of the brand.”

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The four people reported to be seriously injured when a car plowed into Ireland’s Four Courts last night may not have survived but for the quick actions of fellow pub-goers and first responders.

That’s according to Dave Cahill, long-time manager of the Courthouse fixture, which remains closed after last night’s crash and fire.

At last check, the four critically injured people were still hospitalized, but the hope is all four will pull through, we’re told. Cahill tells ARLnow that all three Four Courts employees who were injured and brought to the hospital have since been released.

The crash happened around 6:45 p.m. Friday, as people were gathered near the front of the pub for a local company’s happy hour event.

A gray Toyota Camry — ARLnow has heard from multiple sources that it was being operated as a rideshare vehicle — reportedly came speeding up N. Courthouse Road and drove through the “T” intersection, slamming directly into the pub. It was nearly 20 feet inside the business, Cahill said, and started to catch fire almost immediately.

Quick-thinking customers sprang into action, coming from the back of the restaurant to the smoldering wreckage to help severely injured customers, the driver, and at least one passenger of the car, who was also hurt. Photos taken as fire started to engulf the car and the pub show several people carrying one man — who can be seen in a photo taken seconds earlier slumped over in front of the car — to safety outside.

Police and firefighters arrived on scene as employees and customers were still trying to flee the pub. Photos and a TikTok video show police officers running into Four Courts as smoke billowed out. In frantic police radio transmissions, first arriving officers requested “a lot of ambulances” and reported “a lot of people” still inside the restaurant as fire spread.

“It’s an image I’ll never forget,” said Cahill.

Without customers risking their own safety to save the injured, and without the lightning-fast response of police and medics — ACPD headquarters is a couple of blocks from Four Courts and a fire station is a short distance down Wilson Blvd — “it could have been a lot worse,” he said.

Also helping: the pub was significantly less crowded than usual for a Friday, a server told NBC 4.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with everyone who was hurt,” said Cahill.  Asked about when the pub might reopen, Cahill said “we’re not thinking about it right now.”

Building inspectors determined that Four Courts is structurally sound but not fit for occupancy due to the extensive damage. Photos of the interior from this morning, shared with ARLnow, show a vast swath of charred flooring, fixtures and ceiling near the front of the pub.

The car, meanwhile, was removed from inside and hauled away on a flatbed tow truck early this morning. Video shows heavy front-end damage from the collision.

Cahill said management will start to assess repairs and future plans next week, but noted that the kitchen and the newer rear of the pub is largely intact. The current hope is that insurance will help to pay employees and keep them on staff.

A GoFundMe page, which Cahill says was set up by a regular customer, will also help. As of publication it has raised more than $7,500 of a $50,000 goal.

A total of 14 people were injured, including eight who were brought to local hospitals, police and fire officials said last night. There’s still no word on what led to the crash.

Update at 4 p.m. — The Arlington County police and fire departments just issued the following joint statement. Two of the victims remain in critical condition, the statement says, while the other two seriously injured people have been stabilized.

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A man crashed his Subaru into a Courthouse office building this afternoon.

The crash happened around 4 p.m. at the National Science Teaching Association building at 1840 Wilson Blvd, in the alley between Wilson and Clarendon boulevards.

The front of the Subaru went through a brick wall and into the building, but no one inside the building was reported to be hurt.

The middle-aged male driver of the car appeared disoriented as he was being pulled out of the driver’s seat by firefighters. He was taken on a stretcher to a waiting ambulance and on to a local hospital.

It’s unclear what caused the crash and whether the driver might have suffered a medical emergency.

The fire department’s technical rescue team remains on scene, shoring up the brick wall which was damaged as a result of the crash.

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Morning Notes

Pigeons hanging out in Rosslyn’s Freedom Park (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

Bus Crash in Front of Hospital  — “At approximately 1:52 p.m., police were dispatched to the report of a two vehicle crash involving an ART bus in the 1600 block of N. George Mason Drive. The driver of the other involved vehicle has been transported to the hospital for medical evaluation. Police remain on scene investigating the cause of the crash.” [Twitter]

Civ Fed Proposes Board Changes — “A task force empaneled by the Arlington County Civic Federation has proposed a somewhat radical reconfiguration of County Board and School Board elections… The TiGER proposal, which seeks to expand membership on each body to seven, would have four County Board members and three School Board members elected in a given year, followed by a gap year, followed by three County Board members and four School Board members elected. After another gap year, the process would repeat.” [Sun Gazette]

New Lounge Arriving at DCA — An American Express Centurion Lounge is under construction at Reagan National Airport. [Twitter]

Free Soccer Programming Pilot — “The Arlington Soccer Association is teaming up with the Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing (APAH) to provide free soccer programming. The eight-week pilot program recently kicked off and brings soccer programming to families who live in APAH’s more than 2,000 affordable apartments throughout Arlington County. The programming is offered once a week at local parks and elementary schools for children as young as 3 years old.” [Press Release]

Throwback to Metro Groundbreaking — “We recently rediscovered a scrapbook from the early days of NVTC. June 18, 1971: Ceremonies to mark construction of the Rosslyn Metro station, ‘first in the D.C. suburbs.'” [Twitter]

Buses Gone Wild on I-395 — From Dave Statter: “I’ve shown you lots of amateur drivers trying to navigate I-395S Exit 8C/Route 1. Let’s see how the pros handle it.” [Twitter]

Car vs. Bakery Near Fairlington — “No one was injured after a car smashed through a front window of Great Harvest Bread (1711 Centre Plaza) in Fairlington Centre on Tuesday night (May 10). The incident occurred at around 7 p.m., which is after the bakery is closed.” [ALXnow]

It’s Friday — Overcast throughout the day with some patchy fog. Showers likely, with thunderstorms also possible after 2 p.m. High of 70 and low of 59. Sunrise at 5:59 am and sunset at 8:13 pm. [Weather.gov]

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Morning Notes

More Issues With Vaccination Effort — “Hoagland’s struggle to register for a vaccination started when he did not get a confirmation email back from Arlington County’s Health Department after adding his name to a virtual waitlist. After he got in touch with a representative who was able to confirm his spot in line, Hoagland learned that the county’s system is not able to push confirmation emails to anyone with a Verizon or AOL email account.” [WTOP]

Limited Vaccine Doses Available — “In a conference call with reporters on Saturday afternoon, the Virginia’s vaccine coordinator Dr. Danny Avula said after the current stockpile of over 900,000 first-round doses is exhausted, further doses may be slow coming. Avula said the commonwealth has been told by federal administrators that at least until sometime in March, there will be no more than 110,000 new first-round doses available per week for Virginians.” [WTOP, WRIC]

Teacher Vaccination Kicks Off — From County Board member Katie Cristol: “A great image from @Matt4Arlington, as 900 @APSVirginia educators get their first dose today – with 900 more to follow Monday. We are ready to replicate this scale daily for frontline workers and our community members & will keep fighting for as many doses as the state can send.” [Twitter, Twitter]

Car Crashes into Condo Complex — “A car crashed through a brick wall and into the side of the Barkley Condominiums along Columbia Pike today. No word on injuries.” [Twitter]

Injury at Powhatan Skate Park — From the Arlington County Fire Department: “Earlier today we safely removed a patient during a minor technical rescue incident at Powhatan Skate Park. The patient had minor injuries and was transported to a local hospital in stable condition.” [Twitter]

Fundraising Effort Collects $120K — “More than $120,000 was raised in December to fulfill all of the year-end wishes of 24 Arlington-serving nonprofit organizations, part of an effort sponsored by the Arlington Community Foundation.” [InsideNova]

TAPS Tapped for Inaugural Events — “The Biden Inaugural Committee has announced participants in the virtual ‘Parade Across America’ for Inauguration Day. Two D.C.-area groups have been picked to take part in the parade, including the Tragedy Assistance Program For Survivors, or TAPS, in Arlington, Virginia.” [WTOP]

Reminders: COVID Event, Wednesday Closures — Today at 5:30 p.m., as part of a national event “honoring the lives we have lost to COVID-19,” Arlington is encouraging churches to ring their bells, businesses to light their buildings, and residents to put a lighted candle in a window. Tomorrow, due to Inauguration Day, county government offices and services are closed, and parking enforcement will not be enforced. [ARLnow, Arlington County]

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Morning Notes

Police Called for Man Spitting on Bus Passengers — An incident on a bus prompted a police response Thursday afternoon. Per ACPD spokeswoman Ashley Savage: “At approximately 1:38 p.m., police were dispatched to the report of a disorderly subject on a Metro bus in the area of Columbia Pike and S. Dinwiddie Street. The suspect left the area prior to police arrival and a search by responding officers returned with negative results… The call for service alleged the subject was acting disorderly and spitting on individuals on the bus.”

Arlington Company Is Among Fastest-Growing — Ballston-based Hungry is the fastest-growing technology firm in the D.C. area and the 18th fastest growing tech company in the nation, according to a new list from Deloitte. Another Ballston tech company, Evolent Health, ranked No. 402 in the U.S. [Deloitte]

NAACP Statement on H-B Incident — “We are pleased that the principal took swift action to notify families and meet with affected students and that the Superintendent followed up with a letter to APS families with an honest depiction that did not minimize the significance or harm it caused. This act of racial violence is the latest and most egregious in a progressive pattern of racist incidents occurring within our schools.” [Press Release]

Grant to Help Local Tourism Recover — “Arlington Convention and Visitors Service has received $10,000 from the Virginia Tourism Corporation’s Recovery Marketing Leverage Program, designed to help local and regional tourism entities attract more visitors by leveraging limited local marketing dollars through a local match of state grant funds.” [Arlington County]

ACFD Hosting Kids’ Bedtime Stories — “We are extremely excited to host our 4th Virtual Bedtime Story/ Fire Engine Tour! Spots are limited and previous events have maxed out quickly. If you are interested in joining please email [email protected] Can’t wait to see you Monday night.” [@ArlingtonVaFD/Twitter]

More County Website Problems — Arlington County’s website again suffered technical difficulties yesterday afternoon. The issues were resolved within a few hours. [@ArlingtonVA/Twitter]

Gondolas Gaining in Popularity — “Air gondolas — ski-lift-type conveyances that have become common sights in South American cities like Medellín, Mexico City and La Paz — could one day dot the U.S. urban landscape, some transportation planners say.” [Axios]

Nearby: Car Plows Into CD Cellar — The CD Cellar store in Falls Church was damaged after a car came crashing through one of the front windows earlier this week. “Someone thought we were a drive-thru record store,” CD Cellar quipped on social media. [Facebook]

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The front of a CVS store along Columbia Pike was smashed overnight in what police say was a burglary attempt.

The driver of a car ran into the entrance to the store near Penrose Square, at 2601 Columbia Pike, in the wee hours of the morning. It’s unclear if anything was stolen. The vehicle was found abandoned nearby and the suspect remains at large.

“At approximately 3:32 a.m. on June 2, police were dispatched to the report of a single vehicle crash into a building,” Arlington County Police said in a crime report. “The vehicle fled the scene prior to police arrival but was located unoccupied in the 2600 block of 12th Street S. At the time of the report, it was unknown if anything was stolen from the business. There is no suspect description. The investigation is ongoing.”

This morning customers could be seen doing their shopping inside the store, despite the mangled entrance.

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The driver of an SUV rammed the front of a 7-Eleven store head-on this morning on Four Mile Run Drive.

The crash happened around 9:30 a.m. at 4154 Four Mile Run Drive, near the Dept. of Motor Vehicles office.

The driver of an Infiniti SUV drove straight into a bollard and a brick column at the front of the store, shattering a large window in the process. It’s unclear how exactly the crash happened, but there was no initial indication that it was intentional.

No injuries were reported. Police are on scene and a building inspector has been requested to check out the structure.

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(Updated at 11:20 a.m.) A car ran through a fence and into a house Tuesday night near the East Falls Church neighborhood and Arlington’s western border.

The crash happened around 7:30 p.m. along the 7000 block of Fairfax Drive. The road was closed for around an hour due to the emergency response.

Arlington County Police say the crash happened after the driver of the car sped away from a Virginia State Trooper who had attempted to pull the vehicle over on I-66.

Three suspects fled the crash on foot, police said. One suspect, a 22-year-old Manassas resident, was arrested and charged with hit and run and possession of a controlled substance. Neither she nor the two male suspects, who remain at large, were reported to be injured, according to police.

There was no immediate word on the severity of the damage to the home.

More from an ACPD crime report:

FELONY HIT & RUN (Significant), 2019-09170181, 7000 block of Fairfax Drive. At approximately 7:27 p.m. on September 17, police were dispatched to the report of a vehicle that had run off the roadway and into a residence. Three suspects were seen fleeing the scene of the crash on foot. The investigation determined that prior to the crash, the vehicle was traveling at a high rate of speed on I-66 when a Virginia State Police trooper attempted a traffic stop. The driver of the vehicle failed to stop and sped away at an increased speed. A vehicle pursuit was not initiated. Officers responding to the crash canvased the area and located the female suspect. Tatiana Pendleton, 22, of Manassas, VA, was arrested and charged with Hit and Run – Passenger Fail to Report and Possession of a Schedule II Controlled Substance. Two suspects remain outstanding. Suspect One is described as a tall, black male wearing a white t-shirt and black pants. Suspect Two is described as a short, heavy set, black male wearing a brown t-shirt and blue jeans. No injuries were reported. The investigation is ongoing.

Photos courtesy JB

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Morning Notes

Hope: No Impeachment Filing Yet Updated at 9:50 a.m. — Del. Patrick Hope (D) says he’s delaying filing articles of impeachment against Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax (D), who is facing two accusations of past sexual assaults. “An enormous amount of sincere and thoughtful feedback… has led to additional conversations that need to take place,” Hope said. [Twitter, TwitterTwitter]

More Trailers for Arlington Tech — “Students coming into the Arlington Tech program at the Arlington Career Center for the next two years may find themselves spending more time in trailers than they had thought, and more time than School Board members are happy about.” [InsideNova]

Auction for Restaurant Items — The former furnishings of now-shuttered Rolls By U are up for auction by Arlington County, to help pay its overdue tax bill. [Arlington County]

Car vs. Columbia Pike Restaurant — It appears that a car ran into the front of Andy’s Carry Out restaurant on Columbia Pike. [Twitter]

State Split on Northam’s Fate — “Virginians are deadlocked over whether Gov. Ralph Northam (D) should step down after the emergence of a photo on his 1984 medical school yearbook page depicting people in blackface and Ku Klux Klan garb, with African Americans saying by a wide margin that he should remain in office despite the offensive image, according to a Washington Post-Schar School poll.” [Washington Post]

Beyer on Face the Nation — “Democratic Virginia Reps. Don Beyer and Jennifer Wexton renewed their calls for Gov. Ralph Northam and Lt. Governor Justin Fairfax to step down over their respective controversies” on CBS’s Face the Nation Sunday morning. [CBS News]

Local Chef on CBS This Morning — Chef David Guas of Bayou Bakery in Courthouse made an extended appearance on CBS This Morning Saturday, talking about his food, his restaurants and how his aunt inspired his love of cooking. [CBS News]

Flickr pool photo by TheBeltWalk

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