Identity of driver in fiery Winona crash released

Published on Wednesday, 27 September 2017 17:20 - Written by LOUANNA CAMPBELL, lcampbell@tylerpaper.com 

The identity of the driver in a fatal Winona crash has been released.

Dhaval Ajay Bhatt, 34, operator of the Wildcat One Stop Shop in Winona was the driver of a car that crashed into a restaurant on Thursday, according to Justice of the Peace Precinct 4 Mitch Shamburger.

Bhatt's car crashed into Uncle Mike's Pizza & Pasta, igniting a large structure fire. The restaurant and the apartment where three family members stayed above it, were destroyed.

The restaurant has been a dream of Shawnda Ruesch and her husband, Mike, since they were teenagers. They had been working towards this dream for over 30 years. The family used their savings and borrowed hundreds of thousands of dollars to make their dream come true. The restaurant opened just six days before the incident.

Shawnda said it took less than two minutes for her to realize their dreams went up in flames, losing priceless memories in the process.

This included pictures from their time in Okinawa, Japan, a 100-year-old violin that belonged to Mike's grandfather, and her grandmother's pictures to name a few. They also lost some of their four-legged friends.

When the fire began Shawnda grabbed puppies that were born just 5 days ago, running outside, and calling for her other dogs to follow. Four dogs never made it out of the building.

Identification on the second person killed is still pending.

Shamburger stated that both people died from blunt force trauma.

KYTX CBS 19 contributed to this report.

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