A 21-year-old Ceres man was arrested and booked Wednesday morning after fleeing a car crash that was deadly to two teenage girls near Visalia while calling a friend to pick him up instead of calling 911 for help.
California Highway Patrol investigators said Andralas Wallace Matthews later reported he had been carjacked in an effort to conceal his responsibility in the crash.
Matthews was apprehended later in Merced and booked into the Tulare County Pre-Trial Facility for charges of felony hit and run and vehicular manslaughter.
The crash occurred at approximately 4:11 a.m. on State Route 198 east of Highway 99. The CHP was alerted to a report of a woman walking near the roadway and officers quickly learned that she was a passenger in a car crash that had yet to be discovered or reported. Minutes later, officers located the wrecked car from which two juvenile girls, aged 16 and 17, had been fatally ejected. Another passenger, Tommy Eslick, 19, of Visalia, had also been ejected and was rushed to Kaweah Delta Medical Center for treatment of major injuries.
The CHP determined that Matthews was driving the 2011 Chrysler sedan westbound on SR 198 in the fast lane at an unknown speed. As he approached the Highway 99 interchange, Matthews’ car drifted into the grass median where it lost control and overturned several times while ejecting all three of the passengers, none of whom were wearing seat belts.
The 16-year-old Corcoran girl seen walking near the freeway said she was seat-belted in the right front passenger seat, and climbed out to seek help.
Instead of calling 911 for help, Matthews left the scene and called a friend to pick him up.
The friend, who apparently had no knowledge of the crash, began driving Matthews northbound on Highway 99 to his Ceres home. On the ride Matthews called 911 at 6:30 a.m. to report he had been carjacked by three people along Highway 99 and beaten up. But when he refused to pull over and wait for CHP, Wallace hung up the phone and would not answer return calls. Another CHP officer called on a different phone number and coaxed Wallace to have the driver pull over to talk Wallace. He was intercepted and arrested.
Bail was denied for Wallace.
The investigation is ongoing. It is unknown if alcohol and/or drugs were a factor in this collision but alcohol was found inside the car.