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Asheville man apologizes after knocking out power for thousands

An Asheville, N.C. man apologized after accidentally slamming his car into a substation and knocking out power for thousands of customers Saturday, May 13, 2017. The accident happened early in the morning in Old Fort. The driver, 31-year-old Ryan Viruet, affected about 3,000 power customers for about 12 hours. (WLOS)

OLD FORT, N.C. (WLOS) - An Asheville man apologized after accidentally slamming his car into a substation and knocking out power for thousands of customers Saturday.

The accident happened early in the morning in Old Fort. The driver, 31-year-old Ryan Viruet, affected about 3,000 power customers for about 12 hours.

"I'm trying to let the people here know what kind of person I am. Anybody else who would've done this, one out of 1,000, I'd say, might even come out here and put their face on TV and say, 'I am sorry.’”

Viruet slammed his car into the Duke Energy substation while driving to Boone for work.

"When I came through here, it had a tremendous amount of fog," Viruet said. "And it's not very lit up right here."

Nearly two days after the accident, there was still debris, like broken traffic signs, visible from Viruet driving through them before flipping his car and hurting his shoulder.

Old Fort Police Chief Melvin Lytle said Viruet drove off the road after falling asleep, which Viruet denied Monday.

"I stated I was doing 50, 55,” Viruet said. “I mean, it would be impossible for me to know if I was doing 50, 55 if I was asleep."

According to Viruet, a guardrail could have helped prevent his accident and could help prevent more in the future.

"Imagine a truck driver who's extremely tired, falling asleep, hitting this thing,” Viruet said. “It could take out more than just the power. It can affect lives, families' lives."

As for some of the lives Viruet affected — they were just glad he was OK.

"You can't blame somebody for making a mistake. As long as he's willing to apologize and not do it again, you know, that's a big thing. We don't want to go without power anymore,” McDowell County resident Cindy Davis said.

Duke Energy spokesperson Meghan Miles could not provide an estimate Monday on the amount of the damage caused by Viruet.

But, she said, an insurance claim most likely would be filed.

News 13 also left a message for Lytle to ask about Viruet denying he had fallen asleep. But News 13 did not hear back by the time this article was posted.

Viruet faced charges of careless and reckless driving, speeding and not wearing a seatbelt.

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