Driver claims tailgating caused chain reaction crash on I-35

Juan Ochoa (Austin Police Department Photo)
Juan Ochoa (Austin Police Department Photo)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — A man was arrested on charges of failing to stop and render aid following a four-car collision on Interstate 35 in the early hours of Sunday morning.

Around 2:39 a.m. officers showed up to the scene to find all four cars “totaled” near the 2000 block of I-35 in downtown Austin, near Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, according to an affidavit. All drivers, except one, later identified as 23-year-old Juan Martin Ochoa, stayed on scene and cooperated with police.

“Ochoa caused a crash that resulted in serious damage to all four vehicles, caused injuries to three drivers, two subjects being transported to the hospital for their injuries, and resulted in Interstate 35 being closed down for approximately two hours,” the affidavit said. “A reasonable and ordinary person would feel compelled to check on the other drivers.”

One person dislocated his shoulder and had severe back pain. Another person also had back pain, and both were taken to the hospital.

A witness told police he saw a black Dodge Charger driving north when it swerved and then sideswiped a blue Dodge Avenger. That car then hit the two other cars. Ochoa got out of his car and left the scene headed south, according to the affidavit.

Officers ran the Dodge Charger’s plates and went to Ochoa’s home, where he initially told police he had come home at 11 p.m. Saturday night, according to the affidavit. However, he later said he had been involved in the collision and that he left because he was on probation.

Ochoa said he had been tailgating the car in front of him, but got too close and slammed on his brakes. That’s when he swerved into a guardrail and swerved back into the lane to hit the other car, according to the affidavit. “I am surprised I survived the crash with all those airbags that were deployed,” Ochoa told police.

Ochoa hid in a nearby parking garage and asked for a ride home from someone there, the affidavit stated. Ochoa is currently in custody at the Travis County Jail on a $25,000 bond.

Police Chief Brian Manley said two other crashes happened in the same area around the same time Sunday morning and all of the crashes involved drivers suspected of driving drunk.

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