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SUV hits woman outside Chili Peppers Tanning in Madison Heights on May 21, 2015.

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Madison Heights — A sport utility vehicle crashed through a tanning salon Thursday afternoon, seriously injuring a woman walking along the sidewalk, according to the store manager.

The woman was injured around 1:20 p.m. when a white SUV slammed into Chili Pepper's Tanning on John R between 12 Mile and 13 Mile, manager Stephanie Miller said.

Employee Brittni McAlpine, 25, said she walked away from the store's window just moments before the crash.

"I went back over to the computer and when I looked up, I saw (the vehicle) coming straight for the store and out of my peripheral vision I saw the woman outside of the store," McAlpine said. "I heard her scream and she shuffled a little to her left, thinking she was going to avoid it. But she had no chance."

Surveillance footage from the scene shows the woman react as the SUV approaches. She attempted to back away from the oncoming truck, but was thrown through the salon's large glass windows.

The impact knocked the woman's keys from her hands and a shoe off her foot, Miller said. The pizza she picked up from Hungry Howie's two doors down was sent flying into the salon.

The vehicle came to a stop perched on a cement ledge beneath the windows, which may have spared the woman's life, McAlpine said.

"If it wasn't for the cement ledge that holds the windows up, the outcome could have been fatal," McAlpine said. "She was totally graced by an angel."

The 56-year-old Madison Heights woman was taken to a local hospital where she underwent surgery overnight, McAlpine said. She remains hospitalized Friday with serious leg injuries.

McAlpine said she has been corresponding via text with the woman's daughter.

"It's definitely a life-changing event," McAlpine said. "Doctors have said she'll have to go through a lot of physical therapy and it'll be about three months before she's able to walk.

Most of the woman's injuries were to her left leg, McAlpine said, including a wound doctors will watch for potential infection.

Immediately after the crash, the driver initially remained inside her car alongside an elderly male passenger, McAlpine said. She did not take her foot off the gas after impact.

"She looked like she was in a state of confusion, kind of looking around a little bit," McAlpine said. "She was just kind of out of it."

McAlpine said she recognized the driver as a frequent customer of a market located in the same shopping center as the salon.

McAlpine said she quickly ran to the injured woman's side after the crash.

"She was crying and screaming and just saying it hurt," McAlpine said. "She was kind of going in and out so I think she was just losing a bit of consciousness, probably because of the amount of blood she was losing."

McAlpine also called 911, but soon handed the phone to a customer.

"I was frantic. I was having a slight anxiety attack so I had to hand the phone over to one of my customers," she said. "I have a hard time finding the words to explain it. My heart stopped for a moment."

First responders arrived within minutes, she said.

Miller, the manager, said she received a call from McAlpine and arrived at the store less than 10 minutes after the crash.

"The parking lot was blocked off," Miller said. "I saw cops, an ambulance and fire trucks. People that work in the plaza were around and seeing if everyone was OK.

"It was just a lot of chaos."

The tanning salon reopened around 11 a.m. Friday after a city building inspector declared it safe, Miller said. Large wooden boards cover the front windows and one door.

Calls to the Madison Heights Police Department weren't immediately returned.

hfournier@detroitnews.com

(313) 223-4616

@HollyPFournier

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