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RANCHO CUCAMONGA — California Highway Patrol officials said they are investigating a crash on Interstate 15 involving a vehicle registered to the Town of Apple Valley’s finance director as a felony hit-and-run.
The name of the driver who allegedly fled from the July 20 incident is not listed in a CHP report obtained by the Daily Press. CHP officials verified the report, which states that Assistant Town Manager Marc Puckett is the owner of the black 2011 Cadillac CTS left at the scene.
At approximately 11:30 p.m., the driver of the second vehicle, Lola Espinoza, said she was traveling southbound on I-15 when her gray 2011 Toyota Prius was “slammed into” from behind shortly after passing Foothill Boulevard.
“I never saw the vehicle coming. There was no lights,” Espinoza said. “I don’t know that it was him that hit me, but it was his vehicle.”
A CHP incident log showed that the Cadillac went down an embankment on the freeway’s right-hand side. Espinoza said she connected the Cadillac’s Vehicle Identification Number, included in the log, to Puckett via the website VIN Place.
Puckett told the Daily Press on July 27 he “was in an accident a week ago,” but denied that a second vehicle was involved. There was moderate damage to both vehicles, according to the report, which included front-end damage to the Cadillac.
Espinoza said after her Prius was hit, it partially blocked the slow lane on southbound I-15. Espinoza was transported to Kaiser Permanente in Ontario after reporting complaints of “pain to her left side, left wrist, neck and back,” the CHP report shows.
“What happens in an incident for hit-and-run and someone is hurt, we’ll go ahead and file felony hit-and-run charges,” officer Jesus Garcia with Rancho Cucamonga CHP said on July 27. “At this point, we don’t have (the) driver ID’d, and we’re investigating it as felony hit-and-run.”
When asked about Espinoza’s story, Puckett told the Daily Press it was “absolute crap.”
“Here’s what happened,” Puckett said. “I’m on my way home, I was in the slow lane on the 15 freeway, and something ran out in front of me. I went down the embankment into the flood control channel. My phone was dead, so I walked down the embankment and used someone’s cellphone.”
He called his son, who later picked him up, Puckett said.
“We drove back to the site (the next day) and my car was gone and I thought, ‘Great, they towed my car,’” Puckett said. “I went (to the tow yard) and got my property out of it and called my insurance company and that was the end of it.
“I talked to CHP the very next morning (July 21), and they said if there’s no one else involved I didn’t have to report it. But I got a police report in the mail … The only reason I left my car was because my cellphone was dead.”
On July 28, Puckett said he gave a statement to Rancho Cucamonga CHP officials that day, adding that the statement matched what he told the Daily Press the day before.
CHP officials confirmed Puckett’s statement and said a more detailed report on the crash would be provided; however, they have since declined, citing the ongoing investigation.
Multiple attempts to reach Rancho Cucamonga CHP’s investigating officer were unsuccessful despite another official’s assurance that contact would be made.
A California Public Records Act request for the additional CHP report has been filed.
Puckett, meanwhile, did not respond to further questioning during the July 28 conversation.
“The bottom line is this is an accident that happened when I was not at work, during my private time, in my private life, and I’m trying to resolve it,” Puckett said. “I really have nothing else to say. I’ve said everything I need to say.”
Source: Matthew Cabe and Paola Baker, Daily Press