Victims Continue to Heal in Newport

October 31, 2006 -- Posted at 5:53 p.m. CDT

NEWPORT, AR -- Around seven o'clock on September 5th, 2006 44-year-old Gary Nicholson lost control of his vehicle, crossed two lanes of traffic and slammed into the side of Hardee's in Newport.  Now, almost two months later the victims are continuing to heal.

Levi Anders and Velma Johnson were sitting just feet from where the truck landed in the restaurant.

"All I heard was a boom.  We didn't see anything, we didn't hear anything.  When I finally looked up, the debris were falling down and I was bleeding," said Levi Anders.

The dining room at Hardee's has been closed since the accident happened.  The glass in the window where the truck crashed through is now replaced, and the interior is being changed completely.

"It was a big tragedy for all of Newport.  We're just trying to heal," said Hardee's Manager, Patricia Alcorn.

Alcorn said they hope to reopen the dining room of the restaurant on November 20th.

"It was like a nightmare.  It was like things you see on TV in slow motion, and in real life you don't know what to believe," said Anders.

"It was very, very scary.  It's been a while, but it was the scariest thing I've ever experienced anywhere," said Velma Johnson.

Levi Anders attended a hearing for Nicholson held on Tuesday.  That hearing, while not directly related to the accident at Hardee's, included testimony about the case.

The hearing stemmed from a 2005 conviction against Nicholson.  Nicholson confessed to intent to purchase cocaine and was sentenced to probation.  Tuesday Nicholson's probation was revoked and he was sentenced to spend 5 years in the Arkansas state penitentiary.

Anders said he will continue going to hearings involving Nicholson.

"I'm not really mad at Gary.  I believe if he had it to do all over again he wouldn't do anything like that.  I don't think he was trying to do it," said Anders.

Nicholson faces two counts of manslaughter, 4 counts of 2nd degree battery, one count of third degree battery, and one count of criminal mischief.  His trial is set for either January or February of 2007.