WASHINGTON – Insurance likely won't cover the damage to a limousine set on fire during an Inauguration Day protest in Washington, the limo company president says.
Muhammad Ashraf, the president of the Virginia-based Nationwide Chauffeured Services, said Monday that replacing the car could cost tens of thousands of dollars. Insurance would cover vandalism but may not cover his situation because the car was damaged in a riot, he said.
More than 230 people were arrested after self-described anti-capitalists began breaking the windows of businesses, the limo and an emergency vehicle Friday, the day of President Donald Trump's inauguration. Court paperwork says the group did more than $100,000 in damage.
Ashraf said his family-owned business, based in Alexandria, Virginia, has a fleet of approximately 30 limousines, party buses and other vehicles and has been in business for 25 years. He called the limousine's destruction "a very sad situation." He said the limousine was one of two vehicles of that kind owned by the company and was in heavy demand around the inauguration.
Not having the vehicle means he's losing business, he said.
"I just can't imagine why people had to do these things," he said.
Luis Villarroel, the car's driver, said he had dropped off clients and was parked when he saw the protesters. He said about six people smashed the car's windows with bricks, a piece of wood and, he believes, one or more hammers.
He said it was clear the group didn't have any intention of hurting him.
"It was very clear that these kids only wanted to damage the property," he said.
He said after the car's windows were broken, someone threw a flare inside but he was able to stamp out the flame. About an hour and a half later, however, a policeman told him he should leave the area because "things were getting ugly." He later got photos of the vehicle on fire, he said.
The company had sent another limousine to pick up the clients, this one a Hummer, and he stayed with the second driver as they picked up their clients.
Villarroel, who has driven for the company for about nine years, said he was disappointed by what happened.
The demonstrators thought of a limo as a "symbol of richness or power," but that's not true, he said. He said powerful people more often request a sedan or SUV, and the limo gets used for proms and parties.
All the cars are tolls to make a living, he said, adding, "We drive everyone."