Byline: Brian Lee
BRIMFIELD – The tornado-devastated One Stop Car Care began light-duty tow jobs this week, said owner David Bell.
More than 200 cars at the automotive repair and service shop were smashed and totaled in the June 1 storm, and 10 tow trucks incurred the same fate. Only two trucks were covered by insurance, a frustrated Mr. Bell said this week.
“We put our own trucks together because the insurance company hasn’t paid me yet,” said the 52-year-old, who services AAA and police. He’s owned the business 26 years.
Mr. Bell said he didn’t have insurance “that covers anything worth a damn,” and he hasn’t “got one dime yet.”
Adding insult to injury, two men who offered to help with damage took off with two of the company’s chain saws. Mr. Bell said he told the masquerading volunteers on Monday to move lumber for him and went back to his business. Five hours later, the volunteers and chain saws were gone.
“Right during the day,” he said.
But there’s been plenty of good, said Mr. Bell, a drummer who had kept a band room on the premises.
Band mates and other musicians have lent support, including planning an Aug. 6 fundraiser at the Wales Irish Club to help get back some of the lost instruments.
High school friends have come back to help. Customers have returned in droves because they want to see the business back, Mr. Bell said.
Volunteers from the First Congregational Church have been ”phenomenal,” he added.
But Mr. Bell was critical of the American Red Cross, NationalGuard, the governor and president for not doing more during suchdevastation.
“It’s all churches, volunteers and local people just coming out to help, because that’s what we do in a bad time. They’ve been great, but you can’t count on the people you pay taxes to.”
Mr. Bell scoffed at the president’s disaster declaration, which makes tornado victims in Hampden and Worcester counties eligible for federal assistance.
“So you can get a loan if you want a loan – big deal.”
He said the declaration was a public relations move so the general public, which doesn’t see the devastation firsthand, can say the state and federal governments are taking action.
“I would have voted for Ross Perot or Donald Trump,” Mr. Bell quipped. “Get a businessman who knows how to run something.”
Not one car at the business made it through the storm, said Mr. Bell, who doesn’t have anything left to drive for himself. He said he is driving a customer’s Jeep that he had taken for a test drive and was set to deliver.
“Luckily it was at my house when it hit,” he said. ”She said, `Keep it as long as you want.'”
The business was so hard hit the upper section of a three-story office trailer at the business was found in a backyard in Southbridge. The resident of the home saw the phone number on the cement wall and called Mr. Bell, who said he doesn’t know who the Southbridge resident is and doesn’t want the wall back.
Half of Mr. Bell’s checkbook blew to Falmouth. A woman from the Cape Cod town returned it to a post office box that Mr. Bell set up after the storm. Mail was also returned from Boston, Dedham, Newton and Wellesley, Mr. Bell said.
In addition to the damaged office trailer, a two-apartment trailer and a 40-foot-by-50-foot hut were destroyed.
Forty used cars kept out front wound up across the street in the woods.
“The night that the storm hit, we had to drag them back over here,” Mr. Bell said. “They’re all wasted junk. I’m waiting for the insurance company to come back on that, as there’s a $500 deductible on each car. They only paid me what I paid for the car, not what they were worth or for what they were selling. There are all these little loopholes.”
He also had personal cars on the property that were classics, as did his worker, Scott Murray.
“Thirty-thousand-dollar, forty-thousand-dollar cars totallywasted, and of course, you had them since you were kids, so it’sheart-wrenching,” Mr. Bell said.
Mr. Murray, who has worked at the yard off and on for 20 years, was in two YouTube videos that his co-worker Chris Mendreck made after the two pulled themselves from the wreckage.
On the day of the storm, Mr. Murray said, he was aware of the tornado warning, but did not think it was coming their way. He said Mr. Mendreck saw a pine tree at the top of the hill go up in the air and start twisting.
“He said, `Where are we going to go?’ I said, `Let’s go under the stairs (of the office building),’ the smallest area that’s enclosed with block.”
Mr. Mendreck got in first.
“I wasn’t under there very well,” Mr. Murray said. ”I tried to get the junkyard cat to come in. She said no.
“You could hear trees snapping and cars coming down the hill,” he said. “Then it got pitch black. I heard the roof rip off. Then it got light out.”
That’s when filming began.
And it’s been nonstop work ever since.
“We go from day ’til dark, 15 days straight,” Mr. Bell said.
CUTLINE: David Bell, owner of One Stop Car Care, 86 Holland Road, Brimfield, stands in front of his business, which was ravaged by the tornado.
PHOTOG: JOHN FERRARONE