DUI Crash Causes Fire at Dewey Beach Restaurant


    Ed’s Chicken and Crabs Restaurant has been a staple of the Dewey Beach community for over four decades, but after a vehicle crashed into its kitchen and started a fire, the eatery is likely gone for good.

    Authorities responded to an accident report shortly after 2 a.m. on the morning of August 9 at Swedes Street along Delaware Route 1. Police found driver Michelle Small, 36, inside her 2013 Mini Cooper after she had crashed into the side of the building. She was pulled from the vehicle moments before the area became completely engulfed in flames.

    Small, of Wyoming, DE, has since been charged with driving under the influence of alcohol and other motor vehicle offenses. She was treated at the scene for minor injuries, but when taken into police custody for questioning, she became unresponsive and was sent to Beebe Medical Center for treatment.

    Residential security cameras in the area captured Small driving down Del. 1 near Clayton Street at a high speed, then crossing over a median and ramming into Ed’s Chicken and Crabs Restaurant.

    Sparks were apparent from the moment of the accident, but while electrical fires are common in business and homes, accounting for some 53,600 home fires in 2008, officials say the fire at Ed’s was fueled by a severed propane line as a result of the collision. Fire crews from Rehoboth Beach, Lewes, Bethany Beach, and Indian River battled the flames for more than two hours before it subsided. No one was injured, but the building faces at least $75,000 worth of damage.

    “I don’t think I’ll ever rebuild. That’s it, I think,” said the restaurant’s 83-year-old proprietor, Ed Riggin. “It’s time to get out anyway. I didn’t like doing it like this, though.”

    Residents loved Ed’s for its casual charm and welcoming atmosphere. “It had such a local feeling, non-commercial, not a franchise,” said regular Til Strudwick. “That was the real Dewey.”