Police reports detail vehicle-bicycle collision that leaves man on life support - East Idaho News
Crime Watch

Police reports detail vehicle-bicycle collision that leaves man on life support

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PRESTON — A 25-year-old man has been on life support since a hit-and-run collision in Franklin County on Oct. 16.

Christopher James Ward, of Smithfield, Utah, has been charged with felonies for leaving the scene of an accident that resulted in serious injury and for the destruction of evidence, court documents show.

RELATED | Utah man arrested following hit-and-run crash involving bicyclist

Oct. 16

Idaho State Police were called to the scene of a hit-and-run collision on 4800 South in Franklin County around 9:30 p.m., according to an affidavit of probable cause. Troopers were informed that a man riding a red Schwinn bicycle had been hit by a vehicle and that the vehicle had left the area.

Police reports show that a vehicle had left the road prior to hitting the bicyclist.

“Evidence on scene indicated that (the victim) was struck, ejected from his bicycle, and came to rest in a cornfield on the north side of the road,” reports say.

Troopers gathered pieces of a vehicle they believed to have been involved in the incident, determining the vehicle to be a 2015-2018 Volkswagen Jetta. ISP requested assistance from the public in their search for a car matching the description and showing damage to the front end.

Oct. 17

ISP received a tip that a gray 2017 Jetta had been left at a collision repair center in Smithfield, Utah.

Troopers joined officers with the Smithfield Police Department at the repair center, where they found the Jetta. In reports, responding officers noted the Jetta had sustained “severe damage” to the driver’s side, a smashed windshield and “heavy” damage to the front end. Officers also noted red paint transfer at the apparent impact zone which matched the color of the bike involved in the hit-and-run.

Officers found the Jetta to be registered to Ward and obtained a seizure warrant, taking the car for evidence collection.

The repair center told officers that the Jetta had been left there on the evening of Oct. 16 — some time between 4:30 p.m. and 10 p.m. Ward called the repair center the following day and informed the business the Jetta had been involved in a collision with a deer.

Oct. 18

Detectives returned to the scene of the collision and determined that the Jetta would have left the scene using U.S. Highway 91.

About six miles from the collision site, officers found a bike wheel and strut they determined to have been involved in the collision. Police reports show the bike wheel had been dragged under a car before it fell out and was left near the road.

Officers obtained a search warrant to collect evidence from the Jetta seized in Utah.

While searching the car, officers found what they believed to be human soft tissue on the front driver’s side, blood and hair on the driver’s door and hair in the windshield. Officers also found empty liquor bottles inside the car.

An officer spoke with Ward over the phone. He told the officer he had hit a deer on Oct. 15. When asked where the deer strike had occurred, Ward said it had happened in Utah but was not certain where precisely.

The officer noted in reports that it was “clear” Ward was not being truthful during their discussion.

Other officers spoke with witnesses, who said that Ward had been drinking while playing golf early in the day on Oct. 16. One witness told officers that they saw Ward driving the Jetta on Oct. 15, stating that it was in “mint condition.” A witness also told officers that Ward would not let anyone drive his car.

Oct. 20

Officers obtained a search warrant to collect blood from the victim. In speaking with medical staff at the Utah hospital where the victim was being treated, officers learned that the victim was on a ventilator and had been on life support since the collision. Staff told officers the victim had sustained “severe injuries and fractures to his extremities,” had “very little” reflex response and was suffering from “severe bleeding (in) the brain.”

Detectives spoke with a business near the intersection of 4800 South and Highway 91 and obtained surveillance footage from Oct. 16.

In the footage, officers saw a car matching Ward’s Jetta traveling eastbound on 4800 South “at a high rate of speed” just before 4:45 p.m. Damage was visible to the front driver’s side and undercarriage of the vehicle.

Officers and the Franklin County Prosecutor’s Office deemed the evidence available to be sufficient for the issuance of an arrest warrant for Ward.

He was arrested Oct. 26 by Smithfield police and taken to Cache County Jail.

Though Ward has been charged with these crimes, it does not necessarily mean he committed them. Everyone is presumed innocent until they are proven guilty.

If he is found guilty, Ward could face up to 15 years in prison.

A preliminary hearing was waived and Ward was bound over to District Court on both charges. He was arraigned by District Judge Mitchell Brown on Nov. 10.