A Fort Stewart soldier was charged with DUI, leaving the scene of an accident and reckless driving after he rolled his Jeep several times Saturday night and drove off when the vehicle landed right-side-up.
Hinesville Police Department Traffic Investigator Les Patton, who responded to a call of a vehicle rollover around 9:30 p.m. on Highway 84 and Darsey Road, said he found military equipment and the driver’s wallet at the scene.
Witness Jeffrey Gintz, who was traveling east on Highway 84, said he watched as the 2002 black CJ5 Jeep crossed into the center turning lane. Gintz said he swerved to avoid being hit by the oncoming vehicle and then saw the Jeep flip at least two — possibly three — times before it landed on its wheels and drove off.
Another witness, who has not been identified, called 911 and told the dispatcher he had seen the vehicle roll over and was following it on Highway 84 west.
Walthourville Police Department Patrol Officer Travis Thomas spotted the Jeep about three-and-a-half miles from the accident scene and initiated a traffic stop after authorities issues a “be-on-the-lookout” warning. Long County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Walter Pelton assisted Thomas.
Patton arrived and asked the driver, later identified as Antonio Gonzalez, 19, why he hadn’t called 911 to report the accident. Gonzalez told Patton he had been trying to find a phone, although Patton said Gonzales’ cell phone was in plain view on his console. The driver claimed he had been on his way to Fort Stewart and was trying to find a better location to make the call.
Gonzales’ passenger, Zachary Blanchard, 20, was taken to Memorial Health University Medical Center in Savannah with non-life-threatening injuries.
Patton said the Jeep’s roll bar, and the fact both men were wearing seatbelts, likely is what kept them safe.
When authorities stopped Gonzales, the Jeep’s windshield was broken and other damage was consistent with a vehicle that had overturned.