The driver of a car that slammed into Hijab House in Sydney’s west on Thursday, injuring 14 people, has been released from police custody, but could still be charged over the incident.
NSW Police said emergency services were called to Boronia Road, in western Sydney, at 3.15pm on Thursday after reports of a car crash.
A Mitsubishi SUV crashed into a vehicle stopped at traffic lights before careering into the clothing shop.
The driver was trapped in the car and had to be freed, while 14 people – mainly women – were injured in the incident.
The 51-year-old driver was questioned by detectives at Bankstown Police Station after undergoing mandatory drug and alcohol testing. He was allowed to return home on Thursday night.
However, investigators admitted they were in the early stages of gathering evidence and did not rule out the possibility of charges.
NSW Police Deputy Commissioner Gary Worboys said officers were still investigating.
“There’s still any number of inquiries going on in relation to that incident,” he said.
Authorities are appealing for witnesses and drivers with dashcam footage to come forward.
Video shot by bystanders at the scene on Thursday appeared to show the SUV with smoke billowing from its bonnet pushing into a car in front of it stopped at traffic lights.
Suddenly the vehicle accelerates across the crowded intersection and ploughs into the store.
In an Instagram post, Hijab House owner Tarik Houchar said the shop was “completely destroyed”.
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A post shared by Hijab House (@hijab_house) on May 21, 2020 at 3:47am PDT
“Greenacre is the heartland of the [Sydney] Muslim community, it’s where hijab fashion is basically concentrated,” he said.
“To see it in that state was … incredibly shocking.”
Mr Houchar said there were about 13 customers and two staff in the shop at the time of the crash, including his own sister.
Mr Houchar became emotional as he described how his sister was “a few centimetres away from potential death”.
He said it was a “blessing” nobody was seriously hurt – in pre-pandemic times, the shop is usually bustling ahead of Ramadan.
A doctor who worked at a medical centre a few doors away from store said someone had lunged at the driver after the crash.
“The driver was sitting there, I think he was in shock, and then another gentleman went to punch him, but [people] stopped him,” Nafi Musa said.
A spokesperson for NSW Ambulance said paramedics were “met with a very chaotic scene” when they arrived.
“There was a large crowd of bystanders who were quite distressed by what occurred,” the spokesperson said.
All 14 people injured were taken to hospital, but none of them were in a critical condition.
The most serious injury sustained in the crash was a broken ankle.
All people injured have since been discharged from hospital.
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