Jay Alan Negus, 57, was delivering mail westbound on Durham Ferry Road when he turned left a little too early onto Bevis Road, causing another driver to veer off the two-lane street to avoid him, according to the CHP accident report.
According to the report, Joseph Helm, 17, was driving his 1970 Mustang eastbound and was about to slam into Negus’ turning mail truck. So the Tracy teenager quickly steered right to avoid Negus, ran into a dirt ditch and overcorrected his steering. That sent his car careening across the road, where it hit a parked pickup and went flying at 50 mph into an almond tree, the report says.
Helm was treated at Sutter Tracy Community Hospital for cuts on his back and right elbow and for bruises on his head. The seat belt cut into the boy’s hip and required several stitches, according to his father, 50-year-old David Helm.
U.S. Postal Service spokesman Augustine Ruiz said he can’t comment on the incident because it’s part of an ongoing investigation. He said the Tracy postmaster and Negus are also barred from talking about it.
“The information you would be able to get has to come from the CHP,” Ruiz said. “There is an investigation that’s ongoing. Depending on the outcome, we may never comment on it.”
CHP officer Don Jones accused Negus of lying by giving him conflicting statements. In one, Negus said he kept driving after seeing Helm swerve off the road, and only returned to the scene after a witness caught up to him and asked him to come back because a car had just crashed.
Another time, the mail carrier said he stopped for five seconds at the intersection, saw Helm drive off the embankment, and took off without seeing the actual crash.
“When I asked (Negus) ‘How can you not see the collision … after seeing (Helm) swerve out of control?’ He insisted he never did,” Jones wrote. “I then told (Negus) that if he was stopped for five seconds, he had to see the collision. (He) still insisted he never knew of a collision until someone caught up to him.”
Negus still never went back to the scene and didn’t stop after the crash, Jones reported.
California law requires that anyone who drives a vehicle involved in a crash that hurts someone else to immediately stop until law enforcement allows them to leave. Otherwise, it’s a hit-and-run, according to the highway patrol.
The San Joaquin County District Attorney’s Office hasn’t filed a complaint against the postman, though the CHP recommended that the office formally charge the mail carrier. Prosecutors are currently reviewing the case to decide whether to take it to court, Ruiz said.
The father of the crash victim said he’s furious about the way the post office is handling the case. He accused the Tracy postmaster of repeatedly brushing him off.
“I just want to know what they’re doing about it,” he said. “I saw that guy out delivering mail again.”
He added that if he’s unhappy with what comes of the highway patrol investigation and the post office’s internal review of the incident, he’ll sue Negus and probably the U.S. Postal Service.
Helm said he bought his son’s 1970 Ford Mustang and has for the past year helped the teen soup it up. The car, he said, is totaled.
“It’s about 18 inches shorter than it once was,” Helm said. “It got totally smashed. But more importantly, my son was hurt. If that guy Jay is a hazard, I want him off the road.”