Traffic along Northwest Loop was temporarily disrupted Monday morning following a hit-and-run accident that left a traffic signal inoperable and the driver sitting in jail for the night.
Local police were alerted to the wreck after several passing motorists witnessed the incident, said Stephenville Police Chief Roy Halsell.
Dispatch received the first call at 11:11 p.m. Sunday alerting law enforcement that a white Ford Ranger had traveled off the north-bound lane of Harbin Drive near the intersection of Northwest Loop and crashed into the traffic signal’s control box.
“The driver evidently lost control and struck the control box located in the southeast corner of the intersection,” said Halsell. “The metal box ended up in the field across Northwest Loop causing the traffic lights to go out.”
Halsell said several passing motorists identified the vehicle and informed police that the truck had fled towards the Bluebonnet Apartment complex.
Upon arrival, police located the driver, Chad Michael Fitzgerald, 26, of Stephenville, near his vehicle and proceeded to question him.
“After they got there the officers approached him and realized he was intoxicated,” Halsell said.
Halsell reported that Fitzgerald resisted arrest while officers attempted to pat him down, which caused a brief scuffle and the arresting officer to use a taser gun to subdue the suspect.
Fitzgerald was taken into custody for driving while intoxicated and resisting arrest, and was transported to Harris Methodist Erath County Hospital for evaluation as a precaution following the use of the taser gun, said Halsell.
“We had witnesses, including an occupant in the truck, that placed him behind the wheel at the time of the accident,” said Halsell. “In addition to the DWI and resisting arrest charges, there could be a charge for failure to stop and identify.”
After the accident, maintenance crews with the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) were notified to install a temporary stop sign on Harbin Drive, said Albert Ray, assistant maintenance supervisor of TxDOT’s Stephenville office.
“It (wreck) completely knocked the traffic lights out, so the Stephenville crew had to come out and place a stop sign to keep traffic flowing,” said Ray. “On Monday, a crew out of Fort Worth came down and set the lights on flashing red until a new signal control box could be installed.”
Ray said damages to the metal box and computer controls were in excess of $5,000, but crews had the traffic signal in operation again by 11:15 Monday morning.
According to Erath County jail staff, Fitzgerald was released before noon Monday on $3,000 bond.