Barbecue cook and restaurant owner Ronald Brooks works from home — at least he did until Thursday, September 13. Ronald and his wife, Louella, own a house at 800 Oakland Street in Aurora, where they also operated their restaurant, Brooks Smokehouse BBQ & Cajun Cuisine. But at about 2:15 p.m. on that afternoon, a vehicle smashed through the front wall of the living room and knocked over the couch Ronald was sitting on, pinning him beneath the couch and the collapsed ceiling and wall.
"We thought something exploded," Brooks recalls. "When the truck came through the house, it landed so far in that it knocked over the kitchen wall, too."
Louella was able to pull her husband out, and an ambulance rushed him to the hospital. Just over a month later, he says he still has painful knots on his legs from contusions and is undergoing physical therapy for back injuries. The house itself is in bad shape, as well. While the insurance company, USAA, is handling the claim and paying for Ronald and Louella to stay in a hotel, rebuilding has yet to begin, and they've been unable to reopen their restaurant.
The Brookses bought the house in 1996 and more than doubled the square footage when they added the restaurant to the back of it in the early 2000s. While the damage was confined to the residential part of the building (originally built in 1955), the entire structure has been condemned until the asbestos found in the front wall of the living room can be abated and an engineering assessment can be completed. Brooks has his own assessment of the situation: "It seems like they're moving pretty slow."
While the insurance company would like him to move from a hotel into an apartment and is willing to cover the cost of a short-term lease until the house can be rebuilt, Ronald says he's been unable to find someone willing to rent them a place for the three to six months it will take to make their house livable again.
"I hate to move too far away from here because this is home," Ronald says of the normally quiet Aurora neighborhood.
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The Aurora police were on the scene shortly after the accident and determined that the driver lost control of the vehicle but that no drugs or alcohol were involved, so a ticket was issued for careless driving. Ronald plans on being in court later this month when the driver has a hearing, so that he can present photos of damage that he says is far beyond what a vehicle traveling 30 miles per hour would inflict, especially since it would have had to cross an intersection and drive up a sidewalk and lawn before impacting the house.
He also hopes to be able to recoup the financial losses from not being able to operate his restaurant. "We built this so that when we got old, we'd still be able to run the restaurant, and now we can't do that," he explains.
Despite the current situation, Ronald says his faith keeps him optimistic, and he hopes to have Brooks Smokehouse up and running again next spring. In the meantime, he is also working on a distribution deal to get his bottled barbecue sauce into stores around the country.