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Wednesday, Jul 30, 2014

Driver crashes into Countryside mall, starting fire

Published:   |   Updated: May 15, 2013 at 03:31 PM

A fire at Westfield Countryside mall began early today when a man crashed his car into the Dillardís store in a failed suicide attempt, officials said.

The mall is scheduled to open today, but Dillardís will be closed due to fire, smoke and water damage in a storage room, officials said.

The driver, 64-year-old Ellis Henry Vaughn, was recovering at Tampa General Hospital with non-life-threatening injuries, Clearwater police said.

Firefighters called to the mall discovered a large hole was in the east side of the store about 2 a.m., officials said. They found Vaughnís 1998 Honda Accord inside.

After he was extricated from the car, Vaughn told police he drove into the mall at a high rate of speed. Police said he left a suicide note at his residence.

Sprinklers extinguished the fire almost immediately before firefighters worked nearly four hours to clear smoke from the store, officials said.