Front-end loader is stolen, crashed into Piston Diner

Owner Jason Kramer said he couldn't imagine why someone would target the new eatery, which was preparing to start offering dinner this month. He must now hold off on business for repairs.
Owner Jason Kramer said he couldn't imagine why someone would target the new eatery, which was preparing to start offering dinner this month. He must now hold off on business for repairs. (DAVID SWANSON / Staff Photographer)
Posted: March 09, 2013

The Piston Diner opened in December, and was preparing to start offering dinner this month after serving only breakfast and lunch.

But those plans were shattered early Thursday - and 15 people were thrown out of work - when someone who was apparently fortified by alcohol drove a stolen front-end loader into the remodeled eatery on Route 130 in Westville.

Owner Jason Kramer said he did not know if he would be able to reopen until a structural engineer inspects the damage. If he gets the go-ahead, he plans to reopen in less than a month.

"A damn front loader came through the front of the building," said Kramer, who also owns the Do Wop Coffee Shop in Wildwood. "It was bad.

"And all my employees are out of work," he said.

"We were just talking about being open 90 days," Kramer said. "Everything was good, everything was up, and we were getting ready to start dinners in a few weeks."

He said he could not imagine why anyone would target the diner, which was Brunic's Breakfast & Grill before Kramer and his partner bought the property and remodeled it at a cost of more than $700,000.

"This is somebody just being stupid," Kramer said.

Police said they had no suspects, but believe whoever drove the front-end loader into the diner had an accomplice.

The loader was stolen from a construction site about a quarter-mile north on Route 130 at Route 45, police said.

Surveillance video from a facility across the highway from the diner shows the construction vehicle traveling southbound along Route 130 around midnight before turning to enter the diner's parking lot, according to authorities.

The video does not show the ramming, but the impact toppled bricks, smashed a large window, buckled the roof, and created a gaping hole through which broken wires and pipes hung exposed.

The video then shows a male jumping into a waiting silver vehicle which then went south on Route 130, police said.

Westville Police Chief Greg Lederer said the loader apparently was hot-wired and investigators found several small bottles of alcohol inside the cab.

The bottles will be tested for fingerprints and possibly DNA, Lederer said.

Hours after the loader went into the diner, crews removed it from the building and workers covered the gaping hole with plywood.


Contact Joseph Gambardello at 856-779-3844 or gambarj@phillynews.com.

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