Road remains closed after taxi thief crashes into church hall
A busy South Tyneside road remains closed today after a taxi passenger stole the vehicle and crashed it into a church hall leaving it in danger of collapsing.
The incident happened in the early hours of Sunday morning when the car crashed into All Saints Church Hall on Front Street in Cleadon.
The building suffered extensive damage but no-one is reported to have been injured in the incident.
Today a section of the A1018 Front Street, by the church hall in Cleadon, remains closed to traffic in both directions.
It will remain closed until it can be made safe.
Police are asking drivers to avoid the area where possible and are appealing for witnesses.
The accident has left a gaping hole in the front of the building and a safety rail between the road and pavement has been flattened.
Police are currently investigating the incident and say the occupant of the car involved fled the scene before they arrived.
A spokeswoman said the incident happened after a passenger allegedly got into an argument with the driver and drove the vehicle off after the driver got out of the car.
Police say they are looking for a white man, five feet 10 inches tall, stockily built with a shaven head.
He was wearing a black jacket and dark trousers.
A police spokesman said: "The church hall was hit by a vehicle at about 2am this morning and has been badly damaged.
"This was a one-vehicle accident and no-one was hurt in the incident but the building is insecure and we have closed the road subject to an inspection by structural engineers.
"The local authority have been informed and are establishing the safety of the building."
He added: "Inquiries are ongoing to establish the circumstances of the collision and we would life to hear from any witnesses to the incident or drivers who may have dashcam footage.
"The road will remain closed while further inquiries and maintenance work is carried out.
"We thank people for their patience."
Anyone with information is asked to ring 101, quoting reference 64 310319 or call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.