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MUNSTER — A cook working at El Salto Restaurant heard a loud boom and found a car surrounded by debris in the employee bathroom late Tuesday.

At about 11 p.m., officers were called to a wreck at 9611 Calumet Ave. and found a white Ford Fusion had crashed into El Salto Restaurant, Munster police Lt. John Peirick said.

El Salto Cook Freddy Garcia-Hernandez said he was talking with coworkers in the dining area when they heard a loud bang come from the kitchen.

“I saw smoke and the extinguishers going off, and I see a car in the middle of the employee bathroom,” Garcia-Hernandez said. “I started knocking on the window. I was afraid someone was hurt or dead inside, but no one was there.”

Garcia-Hernandez went to the outside of the building facing Calumet Avenue, where the vehicle struck the building. He saw a distressed woman sitting at the nearby street corner in front of The Simple Greek and waited with her until first responders arrived.

At the time, the restaurant was closed and only staff were in the building. Garcia-Hernandez said it was lucky that no one was inside the bathroom at the time, including himself.

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“It totally wrecked the bathroom,” he said. “I was just about to use the restroom but ended up talking to my coworkers. I could have easily been back there, or the bus girl, who normally empties the trash cans around that time.”

The wreck also resulted in extensive damage to the building's exterior wall facing Calumet Avenue and the vehicle.

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Peirick said the driver, a 37-year-old Dyer woman, was taken to the hospital to be checked for injuries before she was transported to Lake County Jail, Peirick said. He said police suspect alcohol was a factor in the crash.

El Salto Restaurant is running under normal operations and business was not affected by the crash. The damaged section of the building is currently boarded up pending repairs.

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Night Crime/Breaking News Reporter

Anna Ortiz is the breaking news/crime reporter for The Times, covering crime, politics, courts, investigative news and more. She is a Region native and graduate of Ball State University with a major in journalism and minor in anthropology.