09/29/06 — Store owner mends at home

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Store owner mends at home

By Lee Williams
Published in News on September 29, 2006 1:56 PM

The family of a woman injured when a car crashed into the front glass window of Quality Cleaners and struck her earlier this month say they have not decided whether to pursue legal action against the driver.

But in the meantime, the victim of the crash is recovering at home.

Vicki Fordham Foster, 42, of Ash Street, was hospitalized when a car driven by Larose Whaley Caison, 80, of Live Oak Drive, plowed into the window and front counter and pinned Mrs. Foster to the wall.

Authorities said Ms. Caison's foot slipped off of the brake and pressed the accelerator. Ms. Caison was cited for failure to reduce speed in the accident, officials said.

Some feared Mrs. Foster, the owner of the business, would not survive the accident.

Mrs. Foster's brother, Gary Fordham, said although Mrs. Foster only received two broken legs, she is in extreme pain. He added his sister was having trouble adjusting at home.

Despite her discomfort, Fordham was unsure if his sister will pursue legal action against Ms. Caison.

"I think it was an accident," Fordham said.

The incident, which occurred about 10:30 a.m. Sept. 12, came just three months after James Fordham, the former owner and accomplished businessman, died in June. He was 92.

The glass has been cleaned up, the window has been patched up and the dry cleaning store at 1801 Wayne Memorial Drive has been reopened, but the memory still haunts Doris Travis, a store employee.

Ms. Travis said she cringed as the silver Volkswagen crashed into the front glass window.

"We were just standing here talking and she just came through the window," Ms. Travis said. "We just scattered everywhere."

As the sound of shattering glass filled her ears, Ms. Travis screamed. When she realized what happened to her beloved boss and owner, tears began to flow.

Ms. Caison's late-model vehicle plowed into the window and front counter, pinning her to the wall.

Although in pain, Mrs. Foster remained cool as she uttered one simple request to her employees, Ms. Travis, Kerri Huerta and Vantina Battle.

"Get this car off of me," Ms. Travis said Mrs. Foster said.

The request was simple, but easier said than done, Ms. Travis said.

"She was still pressing the accelerator," Ms. Travis said of the driver, Ms. Caison. "I think she was in shock."

An employee ran around Caison's car and pulled her out. The employee put the car in reverse and Mrs. Fordham collapsed to the floor, Ms. Travis said.

"She was in a lot of pain," Ms. Travis said.

Ms. Travis was in shock.

"It was terrifying," she said.

Ms. Travis was devastated, but she had to compose herself. She still had work to do. She called 9-1-1. Finally, help was on the way, she said.

As emergency medical services personnel proceeded to the location, Mrs. Fordham made a few more requests.

"'Call my husband, call my brother. Tell my kids, I love them and give me some water so I can wash the blood out of my mouth,'" Ms. Travis said Mrs. Foster said. "She was a really strong woman. She was really calm."

EMS transported Mrs. Foster to Wayne Memorial Hospital. She was later transported by air ambulance to Pitt Memorial Hospital in Greenville, officials said.

Ms. Travis feared the worst, so the employees prayed and God answered their prayers, she said. Mrs. Foster sustained only two broken legs in the accident and was released from Pitt Memorial Sept. 15.

Ms. Travis called the ordeal a "freak accident."

On the day of the accident, Mrs. Foster had changed her routine and came in earlier that day, Ms. Travis said. No customers were in the store at the time of the incident, she added.

Ms. Travis added Ms. Caison was no stranger to the dry cleaning store. She said everyone at Quality Cleaners knew her.

"She was a good customer," Ms. Travis said.

Since the ordeal, there has been an outpouring of support from the community. One customer dropped off cookies.

Ms. Travis said she is so thankful Mrs. Foster survived the accident.

But still, Ms. Travis said the accident has changed her. She'll never look at an approaching motorist quite the same again, she said.

"When people pull up, I kind of back up a little and make sure they make a complete stop," Ms. Travis said. "Then, I go back to work."