Witnesses say a man — who the CHP said has already been convicted of reckless driving — deliberately forced another driver off Highway 99 causing major injuries to the victim in what officers are calling a case of road rage.
A southbound motorist allegedly was run off Highway 99 south of French Camp Road Thursday at 4 p.m. The California Highway Patrol said the victim’s SUV tore out 100 feet of chain link fencing before overturning.
Witnesses told officers they had observed the road rage when a southbound pickup truck moved from the inside lane into the SUV as it continued down the freeway before the crash. It left the driver of a 1999 Chevy Trailblazer ejected from his vehicle that had spun around and rolled over on top of the fencing.
Residents living on the frontage road said they heard two booms, not immediately recognizing the source, later noting they could have been tires blowing out.
Jeffrey Connell, 33, of Tracy was arrested in his pickup truck farther down the freeway on charges of assault with his vehicle – assault with a deadly weapon – felony reckless driving causing a specific injury, reckless driving causing great bodily injury and felony hit and run, with his 1992 Ford pickup truck, according to CHP spokesman Officer James Smith.
The victim of the road rage collision was a 26-year-old man from Lathrop.
“As a result of this collision, the driver of the Trailblazer lost control of his vehicle which ultimately overturned and ejected the driver who sustained major injuries. Connell continued southbound on Highway 99 to a point three quarters of a mile south of the collision scene as a result of his right front tire going flat. Witnesses reported that they prevented Connell from continuing by boxing him in with their vehicles until an undercover CHP unit arrived to detain him,” Officer Smith explained.
Smith said there might be a third vehicle that had been involved that may be found during the continuing investigation. Both drivers were alone in their vehicles, the officer added.
Other witnesses had also stopped near the scene of the collision reporting to officers what they had seen before them on the freeway. Firefighters and medics attended to the injured driver just feet away from the front of his vehicle. A REACH medical air ambulance circled the crash site several times before it landed on the French Camp Golf Course on French Camp Road and Highway 99.
A Manteca Fire Department unit had already driven to the golf course where the crew searched out a suitable, level landing zone for the helicopter before a Manteca Ambulance transported the motorist to the landing site with lights and siren.
Connell was transported to the San Joaquin County Jail in French Camp where he was booked on his charges.