Asheville man apologizes for Old Fort power outage

This photo is of Ryan Viruet’s car after he fell asleep while driving and flipped, knocking power out to thousands in Old Fort.

The man responsible for the power outage in Old Fort Saturday morning came back Monday to apologize to the town.

Monday afternoon, Ryan Jay Viruet of Asheville met with Police Chief Melvin Lytle to say he was sorry for all the problems his automobile accident caused over the weekend. Nearly 3,000 people were without electricity Saturday morning after Viruet’s car crashed into a power substation at around 1:30 a.m. Saturday.

On Monday, Viruet said he was also appreciative of how local folks responded.

“I wanted to thank the police officers and first responders,” he said. “I feel bad leaving that many people without power.”

On behalf of the town, Lytle said, they accept Viruet’s apology.

Viruet said he owns several businesses all over North Carolina. He added he drives through Old Fort, traveling from Asheville to Boone, four times a week. He had a meeting in Boone on Saturday and was hoping to get there where he could find a place to stay for the rest of the morning. He fell asleep behind the wheel of his 2007 Nissan Sentra and it ran into a power pole, flipping his car and knocking out the electricity to residents and businesses in and around Old Fort.

Viruet was charged with reckless driving, and issued a speed ordinance violation for traveling around 55 mph in a 30 mph zone. Police said Saturday, he was not impaired. Also, the airbags in Viruet’s vehicle did not deploy during the accident and he walked away with only a scratch.

Despite everything, he said, Old Fort residents were concerned about how he was doing.

“I wanted to thank the people of the town,” he said. “It’s terrible to be without power and the businesses that suffered but everybody was real nice about it.”

Lytle said Monday at last check, damages to Duke Energy’s property and costs associated with the outage, were approximately $45,000. He said many businesses have reported only losing sales for the day.