Altamonte Mall

Driver's rampage is big draw at mall

Gary Taylor | Sentinel Staff Writer Posted December 13, 2006

ALTAMONTE SPRINGS -- The sound of the crash echoed through the cavernous Altamonte Mall, startling Terry Maze.

"I looked up and saw headlights," he said Tuesday morning, recalling the harrowing incident the evening before when a car drove into the mall's upper level and crashed onto the floor below. "It was like a movie."

Had it been two minutes later, Maze said, he would have been right in the car's path.

As it was, the mall was closed and a half-dozen other workers were walking toward the doors when the Mitsubishi Lancer came crashing through them.

"They came running out, heading in both directions," said Maze, pointing to the east and west as he described the chaotic scene in the corridor leading to the mall's northwest exit.

"He stepped on the gas," Maze said. "The wheels were spinning."

He estimated the car was traveling 35 to 40 mph as it barreled down the short hall before striking a perfume kiosk "dead in the middle."

The car then crashed into a support column and came to a stop. "Then he gunned it," Maze said.

The vehicle drove around the column and went through a short wall, crashing into the side of an escalator before landing on its side on the floor below.

"It went over like a toy," Maze said. "It was amazing."

Maze said he yelled for someone to call 911 as he watched smoke coming from the car. He figured the driver had to be a young person because it was "a sporty-looking car, multicolored, with big wheels."

He was right.

The driver, Altamonte Springs police said, was Adam Soloman Kahin, 19, who lives near Longwood. Kahin told police he was trying to commit suicide, but he suffered only minor injuries and was admitted to a hospital for psychiatric observation.

Seminole County Sheriff's Office reports show this was at least the fourth time Kahin has threatened suicide and been committed to a hospital under Florida's Baker Act law in about 14 months.

The incident Monday happened about 10:30 p.m., a half-hour after the mall closed. By 8 a.m. Tuesday, when the mall reopened, the car was long gone, leaving only scuff marks on the floor where it landed.

Mall employees had worked through the night cleaning up the mess, boarding up the glass entry doors and erecting a barrier where the car had crashed from the second floor. By midmorning, the damaged escalator was being tested and was expected to reopen today, said Leisa Son, the mall's assistant marketing manager.

If the early crowd was any indication, it was news of the crash -- instead of holiday bargains -- that drew people to the mall Tuesday.

"I just had to come and see this," said Veronica Loughmiller of Altamonte Springs. So she rousted her 16-year-old son, Caleb, out of bed an hour early and drove to the mall. "We're a bunch of nosy people," she said.

Maze, who owns Nature's Table in the mall's food court, said business was brisk as soon as the doors opened.

Eric McCloskey, manager of a Cingular Wireless kiosk a few feet from where the car landed, was hoping all the activity would add to an already good holiday season.

"It has been a busy day here at the mall," Son said.

Son said mall management would meet with police and fire officials to see whether security changes should be made.

Damage was estimated at $100,000 to the mall and $5,000 to Ero's Perfume. A man repairing the kiosk Tuesday morning and restocking it with undamaged bottles of perfume would not comment.

References

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