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Car wash turns out to be car crunch

A Tampa woman's car ends up totaled. "I've never heard of anybody losing their car in the carwash,'' she says.


© St. Petersburg Times, published June 3, 2000

TAMPA -- Drivers who frequent carwashes can expect the occasional bent antenna, scratched mirror or mangled rear wiper.

Dorothy Elledge got a lot worse than that when she dropped her Lincoln for a shine at Buccaneer Car Wash.

[Times photo: Mike Pease]
Dorothy Elledge took her 1990 Lincoln Town Car to Buccaneer Car Wash on Tuesday. When a worker accidentally hit the gas, the car scraped a trash bin and then crashed into a fence.
Elledge, 77, typically got her silver 1990 Town Car cleaned at Eldorado Grand Prix Car Wash for $15.

But a friend suggested a better deal at Buccaneer, up the road at 8101 N Dale Mabry Highway.

Elledge said she dropped off her car Tuesday, paid $7 for the wash, got a cup of coffee and sat down inside Buccaneer's waiting room. Within about 10 minutes, she said, an employee asked whether she was the former owner of a Lincoln Town Car.

A worker had just wrecked the car at the carwash.

"I couldn't talk," Elledge said. "I couldn't say anything. I was just so hurt and shocked. I've never heard of anybody losing their car in the carwash."

Buccaneer manager Charles Irvin said he believes the employee, whom he wouldn't name, accidentally got her foot tangled in the car's floor mat and stuck against the gas pedal, causing the car to accelerate uncontrollably. It scraped against a trash bin and smashed into a fence, Irvin said. The worker was not injured, he said.

"It's just an unfortunate thing that has happened," Irvin said, adding he has regular safety meetings with his employees.

"I feel bad for the lady," said Buccaneer's owner, Sherman H. Williams.

"But that's why we have insurance."

Elledge's car was towed to a Lincoln dealership where an agent for Buccaneer's insurer, General Casualty Insurance, appraised it, told her it was totaled and offered her $6,000.

But Elledge is not happy with the settlement offer and so far has not accepted it. The car, she said, was a gift in 1991 from her late husband.

"That car has sentimental value. And there's no way I can buy a new Lincoln for $6,000."

Actually, she probably could buy one like her old one. According to Kelley Blue Book, a popular guide to used car values, a 1990 Town Car with 70,000 miles, as Elledge's had, should sell for about $5,700.

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