An Antonia Fire Protection District SUV that was reported stolen Sunday morning (July 14) was involved in a four-vehicle accident in Arnold, and the alleged thief has been arrested, authorities reported.
A 20-year-old Bolivar man was arrested after the accident, and as of this afternoon (July 15), he was in an area hospital being treated for injuries he reportedly sustained in the incident, said Grant Bissell, spokesman for the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office.
The accident occurred about 9:30 a.m. at the intersection of Hwy. 141 and Jeffco Boulevard in Arnold, and along with Antonia Fire district’s 2016 Ford Expedition, a 2019 Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross, a 2011 Honda CRV and a 2016 Hyundai Elantra were involved in the accident, Arnold Police Lt. Wooldridge said.
Arnold Police will seek three fourth-degree assault charges against the man through the Jefferson County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office, as well as charges for resisting arrest, failure to yield to an emergency vehicle and failure to obey a traffic-control device, Wooldridge said.
The Sheriff’s Office will seek charges against him for tampering with a motor vehicle, burglary and property damage, Bissell said.
At about 9 a.m., the Sheriff’s Office was called to check on the well-being of the man who later was accused of stealing the SUV. The man allegedly had been spotted asleep behind the wheel of a gray Ford Fusion at Old Lemay Ferry Road and Old Hwy. M near Antonia Fire House 1, Bissell said.
When the deputy located the car, the driver was gone, and the deputy heard shouting from the firehouse, where an SUV had been stolen, Bissell said.
“Firefighters noticed that a car was abandoned in the intersection of Old Lemay Ferry and Old Hwy. M,” Antonia Fire Chief Mike Arnhart said. “Firefighters were in the station checking the firetruck, which is a normal thing to do at the start of a shift change. So, the bay door was open, and they didn’t notice the individual (who had abandoned the vehicle) walk in.”
A short time later, though, they discovered the person inside the SUV, which was in the engine room, and he drove through the engine room door, damaging it and the SUV, including knocking off the red lights from the top of the vehicle, Arnhart said.
Arnhart said he doesn’t know how much it will cost to repair the damage to the door, which is boarded up until it can be replaced.
“Fortunately, there was no structural damage (to the building),” he said.
Arnold Police were notified of the stolen SUV at 9:18 a.m., and an officer spotted the Expedition on Old Lemay Ferry Road near Richardson Road at about 9:20 a.m., Wooldridge said.
The officer began to pursue the SUV but stopped the pursuit when the Expedition crossed into the wrong lane at Missouri State Road and Church Road. The SUV then turned onto Hwy. 141 before another Arnold Police officer attempted to pull the vehicle over. However that officer also stopped pursing the SUV as it began speeding along the highway, Wooldridge said.
The driver allegedly ran a red light at the intersection of Hwy. 141 and Jeffco Boulevard, and then the SUV hit the back, right side of an Eclipse Cross, which was driven by a 51-year-old St. Louis woman, sending the car airborne. The Eclipse overturned and landed in the northbound lanes of Jeffco Boulevard, hitting the front ends of the CRV and Elantra, Wooldridge said.
A 53-year-old New Orleans man was driving the CRV, and a 29-year-old Festus woman was driving the Elantra. No injuries were reported for those three drivers, Wooldridge said.
The Antonia Fire SUV, which is valued at about $40,000, along with the Eclipse and CRV were towed from the scene. The Elantra did not have to be towed, authorities said.
Arnhart said he doesn’t know if the SUV is totaled. He said the SUV was used for inspections and to transport firefighters to training events.
The district has another SUV the chief uses and a pickup the assistant chief uses. In addition, the district has three firetrucks, one tanker and a small rescue truck, Arnhart said.
He said the district is “making things work with (the vehicles) we have now,” and that some equipment had to be moved out of House 1 until repairs are completed.
Arnhart said he’s glad no one was seriously hurt in the incident.
“The blessing is there were no serious injuries or fatalities,” he said. “That was my biggest fear.”