EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP — One moment, Andy Lalasis was in the main lobby of the Social Security building waiting to report income statements.

The next, he was nearly pinned to a desk with a tan Nissan Sentra pressed against his ribs.

“I heard a huge boom, (and) I thought it was a bomb,” said the 64-year-old Smithville resident. “Literally bodies flying everywhere. … It was like a disaster movie.”

Lalasis was one of at least 20 people injured about 10 a.m. Tuesday when a driver crashed into the federal building on Doughty Road, said Egg Harbor Township Police Lt. Michael Finnerty. Eighteen suffered minor injuries, one serious injury and one critical.

The driver, Donna Woodall, 56, of Atlantic City, was possibly attempting to park her car before the crash, Finnerty said. He said it does not appear the accident was deliberate.

A bystander was critically injured, he said. Two adults and two kids were in the car at the time of the crash and taken to the hospital for evaluation.

“Early investigation all leads to it was not intentional,” he said. “We are investigating the crash further.”

Police said 20 people were hurt. AtlantiCare spokeswoman Jennifer Tornetta said at least 21 people were brought to the emergency departments in Atlantic City and Galloway Township.

One person remained in the hospital’s trauma center in Atlantic City as of Tuesday afternoon, but a majority had been treated and released.

Lalasis was taken to AtlantiCare’s Atlantic City campus with bruised ribs but said others in the room were more seriously hurt. Amid the commotion, Lalasis said he saw “bodies flying” and heard a woman near him say she was unable to feel her legs.

“I’m one of the luckier ones,” he said. “You just never know day to day.”

At the scene, dozens of emergency vehicles lined the road. Authorities carried two children in car seats from the building and rolled out those injured on gurneys into a task force bus headed for the hospital.

Firefighters at one point tore down a piece of the wall of the building in order to tow away the car. Finnerty said the building was deemed safe by the township building inspector, but it remains closed until further notice.

The office serves about 48,000 residents annually in parts of Atlantic and Ocean counties, with a staff of about 26 full-time employees.

Two family members of a victim stood outside the Social Security building an hour after the crash to retrieve their relative’s car.

Cesario Diaz, 41, of Pleasantville, said he hurried to the scene after getting a call from his mother Tuesday morning about his sister being involved in the accident.

She was taken by ambulance to the hospital, but Diaz did not know the extent of her injuries.

“I got nervous and rushed to see what was going on,” he said. “Unfortunate things happen in life. Thank God she’s alright.”

Contact: 609-272-7251

CLowe@pressofac.com

Twitter @clairelowe

Staff Writer

I began covering South Jersey in 2008 after graduating from Rowan University with a degree in journalism. I joined The Press in 2015. In 2013, I was awarded a NJPA award for feature writing as a reporter for The Current of Hamilton Township.

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