Loaded gravel truck slams through Uptown apartment building
The driver ran from the scene. Roughly one hour after the crash, police officers broke into a run back to their vehicles. They headed after the driver. A citizen living near Susanville Ranch Park spotted the driver and reported his location to the police.
The driver, Rafik Galoyan, 19, of Sacramento, was pursued by officers from the SPD, the California Highway Patrol and the Lassen County Sheriff’s Department. He was chased in the Susanville Ranch Park area, and was caught two hours later with no resistance. He was booked in to the Lassen County Adult Detention Facility on charges of an alleged hit and run to property and obstructing a police officer.
Galoyan’s evasion of the police immediately prompted the Sheriff’s department to put the Meadow View School into lockdown mode.
“The school immediately took the appropriate action in order to insure children’s safety,” said Meadow View School Principal Chuck Spence in a press release.
“It appears that an individual had alluded police and was in our area. The individual was ultimately apprehended and the lockdown was cancelled. The school will continue to take appropriate actions as directed by local police in order to ensure student and staff safety.”
According to CHP Public Affairs Officer Kristin Schwagerl one of the CHP officers chasing after Galoyan lost control of his cruiser and veered off the road into a large ditch near Old Paul Bunyan Road and Cherry Terrace. No one was injured. The car received minor scraps, and after being pulled out of the ditch, was driven back to the station.
SPD reported no one was injured in the collision to apartment building, as well.
The force of the collision pushed the truck through the building and down into a bottom level carport.
SPD Safety Officer Cindy Owen said if the two people, who lived in the apartment, were sitting at their kitchen table, when the truck came through, they would have been killed.
City Councilmember Kurt Bonham lived in the apartment next door to the one that was hit by the truck. He said he was lucky compared to his neighbor.
“Considering all things, it was a scratch,” Bonham said. “All things considered, that was nothing. This whole building could have been a mess.”
Carolyn and Michael Smith, owners of the Sierra Theatre and Uptown Cinemas, said another truck affiliated with the same company as Galoyan’s truck had come around the corner so fast the truck was on two wheels, and had to screech to a halt on Main Street. Carolyn said Tony Ardito of Miller’s Custom Work was able to keep the driver there before law enforcement showed up to cite the second driver.
Local accountant Steve Pezzullo is the owner of the Nevada Arms. On Sept. 13, he had a contractor come out to the building and assess the damage, as well as give a cost estimate for how much it would cost to fix the building. Pezzullo said the cost of the repairs to the building would total about $200,000. He said while he is insured, he was expecting the Sacramento company that employed Galoyan and owned the truck to pick up its share of the bill.
“I’m lucky that this is such a strong building,” Pezzullo said. “The original builder reinforced the building very well, going above and beyond building codes and regulations.”
Uptown Cinemas and neighboring buildings near the curve on Highway 36 are no stranger to accidents of this nature.
Michael Smith said since he bought the Uptown Cinemas building in 1981, he has had as many as six crashes involving trucks on the side of his building. In 2002, Susanville native Jennifer Kostick was hit by an out of control, older model Kenmore truck transporting lumber. The truck clipped the side of the movie theater before hitting Kostick as she was entering her car. The truck continued into the car lot of Susanville Motors, causing approximately $200,000 worth of damage to the cars parked nearby.
Pezzulo and the Smiths have said they are furious with the frequency of these incidents involving out of control trucks in the area.
“The people of Susanville have to do something to bring pressure to Caltrans to do something about this,” said Michael Smith. “It’s going to come down to a body count. How many people have to be hurt or killed before the road gets changed. When you have 27,000 vehicles passing through this way everyday, and over 1,000 of those vehicles are trucks, the odds are pretty good one of those trucks are going to get into an accident. That’s when they will do something, when we have a high body count. That’s just dumb. If Caltrans had any brains at all, they would put a brake check area at the top of the hill. It’s a daily incident to have trucks coming through town with their brakes smoking.”
Smith said he is now considering some type of lawsuit against Caltrans who not only owns the highway, but also created the curve in the first place. He said at this point, litigation might be the only way they will fix this problem.
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