—Tarmo Hannula/The Pajaronian

A Pacific Gas & Electric worker untangles a guy wire from a tree that was knocked over by a reckless driver Sunday morning on Walker Street. Watsonville Police Sgt. Donny Thul said that around 11:15am a man reportedly stole a red Ford Mustang in front of Gold’s Gym on Westridge Drive at Harkins Slough Road. As he raced off, an alert WPD officer spotted the speeding car and give chase. The driver, identified as Ethan Benoit, 33, charged south on Harkins Slough Road and then onto Walker Street where he lost control near the corner of West 6th Street. The Mustang veered off the road and smashed through a wood fence, knocking out a 40-foot section before clipping a utility pole. The car then careened across 6th Street and collided with a large cypress tree, shearing it off at the base. That’s when the tree and Mustang both sailed into the rear of a parked Dodge SUV before tearing out an outlet pole guy wire. The tree and car came to a rest as they crushed in the corner of a tin building that is part of LaRosa Tortilla Factory. Thul said the driver suffered major injuries and was flown by CALSTAR helicopter to an out-of-county trauma center Thul said Benoit was on Post Release Community Supervision for previous stolen vehicles and had an active warrant. The incident is still under investigation.

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Tarmo Hannula has been the lead photographer with The Pajaronian newspaper in Watsonville since 1997. More recently Good Times & Press Banner. He also reports on a wide range of topics, including police, fire, environment, schools, the arts and events. A fifth generation Californian, Tarmo was born in the Mother Lode of the Sierra (Columbia) and has lived in Santa Cruz County since the late 1970s. He earned a BA from UC Santa Cruz and has traveled to 33 countries.


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