Two People Now Dead Following Truck Crash into Newport Restaurant

September 5, 2006 - Posted at 10:44 p.m. CDT, updated at 7:17 a.m. CDT on Sept. 6, updated at 7:55 a.m.

NEWPORT, AR - Two women were killed and five people were injured when a truck crossed several lanes of traffic and hit a fast-food restaurant where current and former Newport school teachers gathered each Tuesday to eat dinner and visit with one another.  Police said retired teachers Beverly Tapp and Jane Wright died after a truck driven by Gary Nicholson, Jr. of Newport hit a Hardee's restaurant on Arkansas 367.

Police said the truck was traveling south about 7 p.m. when it crossed the centerline and the northbound lanes before clipping the corner of a building.  From there, it went through a plate glass window at the Hardee's and struck several tables.

Nicholson suffered minor injuries and was initially arrested on drug and driving while intoxicated charges after the accident.  Police said other charges are possible and that Nicholson was still being held this morning.

The injured were identified as Levi Anders, Carol Brand, Pat Brown, Velma Johnson and Jane Parnell.  Most were among an informal group of current and retired teachers who gathered each Tuesday at the fast-food restaurant.  Police said two of the injured were in critical condition, but he did not know which ones.

No restaurant employees were injured.

(Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)