The driver who allegedly caused a horrific crash on Highland Drive resulting in a woman being trapped in her car for an hour, claims he was extremely drowsy and was reaching for his drink under his seat when he slammed into the victim's vehicle.
Santiago Jacob Hernandez, 22, of Millcreek, was charged Thursday in 3rd District Court with negligently operating a vehicle resulting in serious injury and possession of a weapon by a restricted person, third-degree felonies; drug possession, a class A misdemeanor; possession of drug paraphernalia, a class B misdemeanor; and not having a license, an infraction.
On Aug. 16, just before 9 p.m., a pickup truck heading north on Highland Drive crossed four lanes of traffic and collided head-on with a Honda sedan near the off-ramp of I-215, near 6580 South. The truck then bounced off that vehicle and hit a second vehicle, a Toyota Corolla, head-on, according to charging documents. The truck ended up on top of the Toyota, crushing it's hood and trapping a 33-year-old woman inside.
One witness told prosecutors that the pickup "slammed head-on into one car and ran up and over the second car instantaneously," the charges state.
It took emergency crews nearly an hour to extricate the woman from her vehicle. She was taken to a local hospital in critical condition but was later reported to be "stable," according to police. An update on her condition was not available Friday.
Hernandez told police he had been working all day and felt drowsy while driving home, according to the charges. He claimed he was headed to a car wash but missed the turn and was in the process of turning around when "his drink fell under the brake pedal and he was not able to push the brake. Hernandez stated he kicked the drink out, bent down to pick it up, and began feeling tired again. Hernandez stated that, 'it was like lights out. I was conscious but my eyes shut,'" the charges state.
Hernandez allegedly said he smoked fentanyl three days prior and "believed that part of the withdrawals was being extra drowsy," according to the charges. During a search of his truck, police found a plastic bag "containing 14 blue pills marked with 'M30' that officers identified as Percocet fentanyl pills."
Investigators drew Hernandez's blood for testing. Toxicology results were still pending Friday. A gun was also found with the drugs in the pickup. Police say Hernandez does not have a driver's license.
Prosecutors have requested that Hernandez be held in the Salt Lake County Jail pending trial, noting that he is charged in another case in which he is accused of stealing a gun, but he "has failed to keep in contact with his defense attorney and failed to appear at his last hearing," which was six days before the crash.