Police search for driver who fled after hitting taco stand, injuring 4 (Video)

Jessica Priest By Jessica Priest

March 11, 2013 at 10 p.m.
Updated March 11, 2013 at 10:12 p.m.

Four people were injured after a SUV plowed into a taco stand on Port Lavaca Highway and fled the scene early Saturday morning.

A maroon Chevrolet Suburban was traveling west in the 1700 block of Port Lavaca Highway about 1:40 a.m. when it left the road and struck a business called Taco Rico Don Lino, according to Sgt. Eline Moya, a Victoria police spokeswoman, and police reports.

Workers Ana Carranza, 39, of Victoria, and Agustin Hernandez, 28, of Port Lavaca, were inside the taco stand's trailer at the time.

Hernandez was treated and released from Citizens Medical Center. Carranza was stabilized at Citizens Medical Center and then transferred to San Antonio Medical Center, a hospital representative said.

Patrons Briana Vasquez, 29, of Victoria, and Alicia Puentes, 13, of Victoria, were taken to the DeTar Healthcare System, according to a police report. Alicia Puentes was treated and released, and Vasquez's condition was unavailable as of Monday night, according to a hospital representative.

Jonathan Gaspard, 32, was sitting on his porch nearby drinking beer and listening to music with two friends when he heard the Suburban slam on its breaks just before reaching the stop sign at the Brownson Street intersection.

A former member of the Navy who conducted ocean search and rescue operations from a helicopter throughout his six-year career, Gaspard said instinct took over as he sprinted down the street - cellphone already dialing to 911 - to check on his neighbors.

"I had to. I just had to run down there," he said, describing a chaotic scene.

He said he found a man with mangled hands, a pregnant woman complaining of pain and a woman with a swollen head trapped inside the trailer. He said the cooking equipment had shifted with the collision, blocking the latter woman's only exit.

Others, Gaspard said, were wary about entering the trailer, which had a flammable propane tank inside, before emergency personnel arrived.

"I thought, 'To hell with that.' I wasn't going to leave her in there," he said, estimating it may have taken firefighters some 45 minutes to an hour to extricate her using cutting utensils.

The now Beef 'O' Brady's bartender lifted the woman out by her waist, and he watched in awe as the driver who caused the wreck put the vehicle in reverse and took off.

He said the driver evaded police down a side street.

"I just couldn't believe it," Gaspard recalled Monday evening as his two young children played beside him.

Moya said police are still investigating the accident and as of about 5 p.m. Monday had not found or arrested the driver.

She asked anyone with information about the incident to call the Victoria Police Department's investigations division at 361-485-3730.



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