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Car crashes into Lignite Council building while everyone was off-site at meeting

ow truck drivers extract a vehicle from the lower level of the Lignite Energy Council building on Owens Avenue in north Bismarck on Wednesday. The vehicle went up and over a retaining wall landing five feet below street level on the building. At right is Tony Saul with Berg Towing and in back is Reed Appelt of Ace Towing. Tom Stromme / Bismarck Tribune

BISMARCK — Coal may keep the lights on, but it's a lucky thing the lights were off at the Lignite Energy Council building on Wednesday morning, April 19.

A driver barreled through the building's basement around 11:45 a.m., destroying the kitchenette and leaving coffee machines, broken glass and even the kitchen sink strewn across the room.

But all employees were attending the council's annual meeting at the Bismarck Event Center, said Dave Allard, director of administration and information technology.

No one, including the driver, was injured in the accident.

Bismarck Police Lt. Jeff Solemsaas said the driver, a 68-year-old Minot woman, told police she blacked out or had a seizure. She is apparently in treatment for some other medical problems.

Solemsaas said the woman was headed southbound on 11th Street and turned westbound on Owens Avenue, before striking the building at 1016 E. Owens Ave. in Bismarck.

"She made the turn and woke up in the building," Solemsaas said.

There is no indication the woman was using alcohol or drugs, but police are asking the Department of Transportation to re-test her ability to drive, according to Solemsaas.

Debbie Aberle, an agent at Alliance Real Estate next door, witnessed the accident. While parking her car, she saw the woman driving quickly and then heard a big bang, she recalled.

"She went into the air a little bit and straight into the underground balcony and kept going," Aberle said.

She immediately called 911 — the Bismarck Fire Department is just one block away. Then she and another person called out to the driver and tried to check inside the building, "afraid of what (she) would find." Soon, police and firefighters started arriving and cleared the scene.

By 1 p.m., Allard was directing construction crews to begin repairs that would allow them to turn back on the lights.

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