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Taxi driver says he's lucky to be alive after bricks flew into car 'like bullets'

PUBLISHED: 08:04 26 February 2019 | UPDATED: 16:53 26 February 2019

The BMW X5 smashed into the column on a traffic island at the junction with Pitt Street and St Augustines Street. It came to a stop at the entrance to Gildencroft Park. Photo: Ioan Ionita

The BMW X5 smashed into the column on a traffic island at the junction with Pitt Street and St Augustines Street. It came to a stop at the entrance to Gildencroft Park. Photo: Ioan Ionita

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A Norwich taxi driver says a crash that sent bricks flying into his car "like bullets" has forced him to postpone his retirement.

Ioan Ionita was waiting at a red light on Pitt Street when a BMW 4x4 ploughed through a sculpture, sending bricks shooting towards his car. Photo: Luke PowellIoan Ionita was waiting at a red light on Pitt Street when a BMW 4x4 ploughed through a sculpture, sending bricks shooting towards his car. Photo: Luke Powell

Ioan Ionita was waiting at a red light on Pitt Street when a BMW 4x4 ploughed through a sculpture, sending bricks shooting towards his car.

The 66-year-old said chunks of rubble peppered his Skoda Octavia, smashing through his driver’s side window and hitting him.

It was caused by a silver BMW X5 travelling down New Boltoph Street, which is a 20mph zone.

The car mounted a traffic island, smashed through a sculpted brick column and ended up on the other side of Pitt Street, coming to a stop at the entrance to Gildencroft Park.

Ioan Ionita's taxi after it had been struck with the bricks. Photo: Ioan IonitaIoan Ionita's taxi after it had been struck with the bricks. Photo: Ioan Ionita

Norfolk police said a man in his 30s was arrested and charged with driving with excess alcohol.

Three months on and Mr Ionita - a taxi driver with 43 years’ worth of experience - said he is still feeling the financial fallout from the incident.

He said: “It’s a miracle I am still alive because some of the bricks were very large. They came at me like bullets and it felt like about 50 shot at my car.

“It destroyed my car.”

The BMW X5 smashed into the column on a traffic island at the junction with Pitt Street and St Augustines Street. It came to a stop at the entrance to Gildencroft Park. Photo: Ioan IonitaThe BMW X5 smashed into the column on a traffic island at the junction with Pitt Street and St Augustines Street. It came to a stop at the entrance to Gildencroft Park. Photo: Ioan Ionita

Mr Ionita, who lives at Berners Street, said he had planned to retire in August this year, aged 67.

But he now has to continue working in order to pay for a new car he purchased to use as a taxi.

He said: “I had to spend a lot of money on this, because in order for the car to be used as a taxi it has to be newer than five years.

“This has all affected me financially because my hands are now tied.”

The BMW X5 smashed into the column on a traffic island at the junction with Pitt Street and St Augustines Street. It came to a stop at the entrance to Gildencroft Park. Photo: Ioan IonitaThe BMW X5 smashed into the column on a traffic island at the junction with Pitt Street and St Augustines Street. It came to a stop at the entrance to Gildencroft Park. Photo: Ioan Ionita

While his insurance covered the loss of his old vehicle, he is still waiting for compensation from the crash.

Norfolk police said they arrested 30-year-old Viktors Raukins, of Heathgate, Norwich, following the crash.

He was charged with driving with excess alcohol on November 18, 2018 and sentenced at Norwich Magistrates’ Court on December 7 after pleading guilty.

He was disqualified from driving for 20-months and ordered to pay £503 in fines and costs.

Local historian Stuart McLaren with the remains of the sculpture inspired by Norwich's textile industry, which has been destroyed by a car running into it at the junction of Pitt Street and Botolph Street. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYLocal historian Stuart McLaren with the remains of the sculpture inspired by Norwich's textile industry, which has been destroyed by a car running into it at the junction of Pitt Street and Botolph Street. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

The brick and stone column was erected on a traffic island at the junction of Pitt Street and St Augustine’s Street in 2011.

But in the early hours of Sunday, November 18, it was destroyed.

The column was inscribed with the names of different types of textiles made on St Augustine’s street between the 13th and 19th century.

It was installed as part of the St Augustine’s gyratory project as an “attractive feature” marking the entrance to the street.

Local historian Stuart McLaren  next to the Charlotte Howarth sculpture on St Augustines Street before it was destroyed. Photo : Steve AdamsLocal historian Stuart McLaren next to the Charlotte Howarth sculpture on St Augustines Street before it was destroyed. Photo : Steve Adams

Swaffham-based artist Charlotte Howarth was behind the sculpture’s design and spent about 15 days carving words into the brickwork in 2011.

This story has been updated after Norfolk police confirmed a man was arrested and charged. The press office previously said no one had been arrested.

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