By Curt Yeomans
It may have just been luck, but a 54-year-old Jonesboro woman walked away from a hit-and-run accident on Thursday with only minor injuries -- despite her sports utility vehicle being hit twice by an allegedly stolen tractor trailer truck, according to a Clayton County Police spokesperson.
Lt. Tina Daniel said Jonesboro resident, William Joe Rhodes, 36, is facing charges of leaving the scene of an accident, fleeing and alluding police, theft by receiving, obstructing an officer, a commercial license violation and reckless driving, for allegedly hitting Hansa Patel's Toyota Highlander on Ga. Hwy. 138, in Jonesboro, on Thursday morning.
He allegedly hit it a second time, while fleeing from police at the scene of the accident.
Patel was taken to Southern Regional Medical Center to be treated for her injuries, and released by Thursday afternoon, Daniel said. "It was a miracle she only sustained minor injuries," the police spokesperson said.
Rhodes is scheduled to appear in Clayton County Magistrate Court at 10 a.m., today, for his first court appearance, according to online court records.
The accident occurred at approximately 9:30 a.m., in the eastbound lanes of Ga. Hwy. 138, just west of Ga. Hwy. 54, according to Daniel. The police spokesperson said Patel had turned her turn signal on, and was in the process of changing lanes when the "Bobcat" tractor trailer truck, allegedly being driven by Rhodes, came up behind her rapidly, and clipped her rear bumper. The Highlander spun two times and came to a stop in the middle of the intersection of highways 138 and 54, according to Daniel.
"One of our officers just happened to arrive on the scene when the accident occurred, and was trying to ensure the safety of the people involved," Daniel said. "As soon as he turned on the blue lights, he [Rhodes] realized he might be in trouble, so he backed up, and began driving forward -- hitting the Highlander a second time, and moving it out of the way, and running over its front bumper."
A woman, who answered the phone at Patel's Jonesboro home on Thursday evening, said the accident victim was sleeping off the effects of medication she received at the hospital, and was unavailable for comment.
Daniel said Rhodes allegedly turned the truck left onto Old Morrow Road, at speeds that, at times, reached 70 miles per hour. The police officer, who first came upon the accident, pursued the tractor trailer truck, while another officer came to check on Patel, according to Daniel.
During the chase, the officer following the truck called in the vehicle's tag number, only to find out information that made the plot thicken. "As we were pursuing him, we realized he was fleeing because the 'Bobcat' was stolen out of DeKalb County," Daniel said.
The police spokesman said Rhodes then allegedly turned onto Battle Creek Road, and pulled into the parking lot of a BP gas station at the corner of Battle Creek and South Lake Boulevard. That is when he allegedly ditched the truck, and tried to get away on foot, by running into a wooded area behind the gas station, Daniel said.
He did not get far. "At this point, K-9 units were brought in to aid in the search for him, and they tracked him to a concrete business that was nearby," Daniel said. "We also had our helicopter overhead, and it was through the use of the helicopter that we found him hiding in some concrete blocks."