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Pickup slams into 106-year-old Huntington Beach church, injuring driver

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A Huntington Beach pastor got an unpleasant surprise this morning when a truck blew through a red light and slammed into his church, smashing a corner out of the 106-year-old building.

“I heard a loud, loud crash,” Pastor Steve Orman of Warner Avenue Baptist Church told KPCC. Running outside, Orman saw a pickup truck had jumped the curb and smashed into the building -- in fact, he said, it had dented a light post, hit the church’s brick steps, “took the whole corner right out” of the building, then flipped backwards and landed on the opposite steps, smashed up and with its airbag deployed.

“There were people trying to check on the driver. Witnesses said he went through the light at about 50 miles an hour.”

Orman said he “was in pretty bad shape,” noting that the Huntington Beach Fire Department “had to cut him out” of the wreck. Fire Capt. Jeff Lopez told the Associated Press that the driver suffered significant injuries and was taken to a local trauma center. No one else appears to have been hurt.

Huntington Beach police said the single-vehicle crash was called in at about 10:15 a.m., according to the Orange County Register.

Although the cause of the crash is unknown, the Register reports that an empty beer bottle was found in the wrecked truck.

The graceful wooden church, located at the intersection of Warner Avenue and Gothard Street, is a Huntington Beach landmark and one of Southern California’s oldest churches. “It’s eligible for the (historic) register, but we haven’t put it on,” Orman said.

It’s also vulnerable to car crashes, the pastor said.

“This is the third time it’s happened” in about 30 years, he told KPCC. But of the three incidents, “This is the worst. ... It’s a bad location.” He said the city of Huntington Beach “decided to squeeze in a lane” along Warner Avenue, and “ever since, every once in a while, something happens.”

The interior of the church was undamaged, and Orman was confident the congregation would fix it soon enough.

He added that “We’re praising the Lord that when he went through the red light there was no one going the other way” and no kids or pedestrians on the sidewalks.

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