UPDATED: Man allegedly fleeing multiple hit and runs causes rollover accident after plowing through wall, into truck

UPDATED: Thursday, Mar. 22, With additional information

(See original and updated stories below.)

HEMET — Details are still trickling in from the scene, but a man who numerous victims and witnesses allege hit several cars before fleeing the scene – was arrested for several charges related to the incident. He was later cited and released with a date to appear in court next month.

After allegedly fleeing from the scene of the first accidents, the fleeing man, who was later identified during a live video stream from the scene as Jerry Blanos, of Hemet, either caused or was involved in several more accidents – including the last crash that caused a commercial pickup truck to overturn in the middle of busy Florida Avenue.

Officials who responded to reports of a car that smashed into a brick wall soon discovered numerous hit and run victims and an overturned truck. The driver of the vehicle that reportedly caused the numerous wrecks was later cited and released with a ticket. T. Epton/Epicenter News photo

According to several witnesses interviewed by Eddie George, of Eye News Media Productions and popular, San Jacinto Valley-area Facebook newsgroup Hemet Eye News and others, while fleeing from the first accidents Blanos plowed at full-speed into and through a small brick wall. He then tried fleeing from that accident scene.

Witnesses reported Blanos was traveling between 35 to 45 mph when he raced through Walgreens’ rear parking lot and smashed through the wall.

After crashing through the brick wall, Blanos reportedly fled through the rear and side parking lots of The Bottle Shop liquor store and raced at about 35-45 mph.

The fleeing man then flew out of the parking lot – “without even slowing” – right onto Florida Avenue’s rush-hour traffic where it smashed into the truck, sending it careening out of control before it overturned and came to rest upside down on its roof.

Blanos clearly must not have seen or realized a low brick wall separated the Walgreens rear lot and a nearby liquor store’s rear parking lot because as he was fleeing the scene of the first accidents he smashed at full speed through the small wall.

The impact launched vehicle parts, bricks and other debris about 60 feet across the liquor store’s rear parking lot. After fleeing the scene of that accident, Blanos plowed into a commercial pickup truck.

At least one of the victims of the first crashes chased or caught up with the hit and run driver after the final crash. That victim’s newer-model black Mercedes-Benz had sustained moderate passenger’s side damage from being sideswiped by the fleeing man’s silver Kia Soul.

After the final crash that flipped the truck, Blanos remained at the scene and was observed in the live-stream video being checked out by paramedics and cooperating with Hemet PD’s investigation. That video, shared by Eye News Media Productions, can be viewed below.

The driver of the overturned truck, who was hospitalized with minor injuries and complaints of pain, was reportedly in good condition and according to his family was expected to make a full recovery. It was later learned that the man’s wife had been in a nearby shopping center parking lot and witnessed the impact that sent her husband’s vehicle rolling onto its roof. She reportedly ran over to his truck and was one of the first on scene.

An officer at the scene later advised Blanos was not under the influence and had no explanation why he fled the scene of the first accidents.

The multiple vehicle hit and run forced the closure of all eastbound and one westbound lanes on Florida Ave. T. Epton/Epicenter News photo

The officers said that based on the victim and witness statements, officers arrested Blanos on suspicion of reckless driving resulting in serious bodily injury and hit and run resulting in serious bodily injury. Both can be charged as felonies.

At the conclusion of their initial investigation, officers issued Blanos a citation to appear in court at a later date.

Word that Blanos was not placed in handcuffs after his arrest and the fact that he was released with a ticket quickly spread through the crowds of curious onlookers, witnesses and people whose vehicles were struck by Blanos – as well as several people who know Blanos.

While officials were treating the injured and officers were investigating the cause of the crash, several tense and confrontational exchanges eventually occurred between two seemingly opposed groups

Several of the heated confrontations were between witnesses, victims and bystanders and Blanos’ wife and a man who identified himself as Blanos’ boss were caught and aired live on Hemet Eye News.

If convicted of hit and run resulting in injury and reckless driving resulting in serious bodily injury, Blanos could be facing up to four years in prison.

The roadway, which was blocked for several hours, was reopened at the conclusion of Hemet PD initial investigation, which is still ongoing.

This is a developing story that will be updated as new information becomes available.

(See additional videos and photographs below original report.)

Eddie George/Eye News Media video

 

ORIGINAL/UPDATED STORY: Thursday, Mar. 22, 1 a.m., With EN Media live video from scene

HEMET — One person was hospitalized after a rollover traffic collision in Hemet earlier this evening. The injury collision happened east of the intersection of E. Florida Avenue and S. San Jacinto Street, directly in front of the Bottle Shop Liquor Store and just east of Walgreens.

Hemet PD is investigating after an SUV plowed through a small brick wall before racing out onto Florida Avenue, where it smashed into a pickup truck, causing it to overturn. Timothy Franzese/Public Safety Incidents photo

Early, unconfirmed eyewitness reports indicated that before plowing through the wall and crashing into the truck, the driver had already been fleeing from hitting at least two to three additional cars.

Eddie George, of Eye News Media Productions and popular, San Jacinto Valley-area Facebook newsgroup Hemet Eye News and others, spoke to several witnesses at the scene in a live broadcast for his subscribers who described what they had witnessed.

In the video, although the driver who caused and fled from the wrecks, at first downplays his role in the accident, admitting only to hitting the wall before plowing into the truck. He then appears to admit hitting at least one other vehicle inside a nearby parking lot. He is also heard stating he had not been drinking before the multiple collisions and that the Kia belonged to his wife.

In a live-stream video filmed at the scene the alleged hit and run did not appear to be unsteady or under the influence. He can be seen on the video being evaluated and treated by paramedics and later speaking with an officer investigating the alleged hit and runs and final crash.

(RCNS is still in the process of viewing and analyzing the approximately hour-long, live-stream video – which can be viewed below – and will post an update to this report once completed.)

One official at the scene confirmed the incident is being investigated as a possible hit and run and numerous witnesses and victims reported on the live-stream video that a silver Kia Soul smashed through a small brick wall separating the Walgreen’s and liquor store’s parking lots, before racing around the liquor store and out of its parking lot – where it then plowed into a commercial pickup truck, causing the truck to flip onto its roof.

City of Hemet Police and Fire personnel along with other emergency first responders were dispatched to the southeast, rear side of Walgreen’s about 6:15 p.m., after a witness called 911 to report that a silver Kia SUV had plowed into a one to two-foot tall brick wall that separates the two businesses rear parking lots.

One person was hospitalized after the three-vehicle accident. Timothy Franzese/Public Safety Incidents photo

It was not immediately known if the 911 caller was aware of or related to the other alleged hit and runs.

First arriving fire officials drove through the Walgreen’s rear lot and found the destroyed wall and various vehicle parts, but no vehicle. After seeing a commotion in front of the liquor store, officials then drove around to Florida Avenue, where they located the heavily damaged Kia as well as two other wrecked vehicles; described as a white, Ford F150 on its roof and a black Mercedes-Benz with passenger side damage.

The Mercedes was facing the wrong way in the eastbound lanes of traffic and it’s driver reported he was one of several victim’s whose car was struck by the driver of the Kia. Those collisions reportedly happened in a nearby parking lot.

Vehicle parts, brick-wall debris and construction equipment were scattered across all four lanes of Florida Avenue and traffic had come to a near stand-still as bystanders provided aid and comfort to the vehicle’s three occupants.

In his live-stream video, George interviewed several witnesses from the nearby Center For Life Skills Coaching building who had rushed out to the overturned truck after hearing the first crash into the low wall.

That wall happens to be visible from the school’s front office and lobby windows.

Fearing there might be children inside the overturned truck, students reportedly used bats, their fists and anything else they had available trying to break open the truck’s windows.

One student later said the students wanted to help rescue the driver, who appeared unconscious inside the overturned truck. She also reported the man suffered a bloody gash to his head, but otherwise appeared “OK.”

While Hemet police officers closed down eastbound Florida Avenue, firefighter/paramedics began evaluating and treating those involved in the crash. AMR medics eventually transported the bloodied and bandaged pickup ruck driver to Hemet Valley Hospital for further evaluation and treatment.

Vehicle parts and brick debris were launched about 60 feet after a small SUV plowed through a low brick wall while possibly fleeing the scene of several hit and runs. Timothy Franzese/Public Safety Incidents photo

Officers investigating the crash learned the Kia had possibly been involved in one or more hit and runs before speeding through the Walgreens’ pharmacy drive-through area. He then either failed to see a small brick wall or failed to negotiate the necessary left turn just before the wall and plowed at full-speed through the wall.

The impact completely destroyed a large section of the wall and caused heavy damage to the SUV’s front end.

After briefly slowing down, the driver reportedly punched the accelerator, driving at “high-speed” from the liquor store’s rear parking lot onto Florida Avenue, where the Kia plowed into the truck.

Officials were still working to figure out the exact sequence of events that led to the final crash and are reportedly interviewing several people who say their vehicles were struck by the Kia before it fled and eventually crashed through the brick wall and into the truck.

During the investigation, both eastbound lanes of Florida Avenue remained closed and westbound traffic was restricted to one lane, causing a traffic nightmare for evening commuters.

Anyone with information about this investigation or who witnessed any of the crashes is encouraged to contact Hemet PD at (951) 765-2400.

This is a developing story that will be updated as new information becomes available.

Click any image to open full-size gallery.

Timothy Franzese/Public Safety Incidents photo

 

Contact the writer: trevor.rcns@gmail.com

Trevor Montgomery, who recently moved from Riverside County to Shasta County, runs Riverside County News Source and Shasta County News Source. Additionally, he writes for Riverside County based newspapers Valley News, The Valley Chronicle and Anza Valley Outlook as well as Bonsall/Fallbrook Village News in San Diego County.

Trevor spent 10 years in the U.S. Army as an Orthopedic Specialist before joining the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department in 1998. He was medically retired after losing his leg, breaking his back and suffering both spinal cord and brain injuries in an off-duty accident.

During his time with the sheriff’s department, Trevor worked at several different stations, including Robert Presley Detention Center, Southwest Station in Temecula, Hemet/Valle Vista Station, Ben Clark Public Safety Training Center and Lake Elsinore Station, along with other locations.

Trevor’s assignments included Corrections, Patrol, DUI Enforcement, Boat and Personal Water-Craft based Lake Patrol, Off-Road Vehicle Enforcement, Problem Oriented Policing Team and Personnel/Background Investigations. He finished his career while working as a Sex Crimes and Child Abuse Investigator and was a court-designated expert in child abuse and child sex-related crimes.

Trevor has been married for more than 27 years and was a foster parent to more than 60 children over 13 years. He is now an adoptive parent and has 13 children and 14 grandchildren.

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