Trial begins for driver accused of racing, causing deadly crash in Cedar Park

Williamson County

WILLIAMSON COUNTY, Texas (KXAN) — The trial began Tuesday morning for one of the drivers accused of racing and causing a deadly crash in Cedar Park last year.

Hayden Michael Hammer is facing two felony counts of racing on a highway causing death and one felony count of racing on a highway causing seriously bodily injury.

Hammer is accused of racing another truck near the intersection of Old U.S. 183 and Whitestone Boulevard on the afternoon of Jan. 10, 2018.

PREVIOUSLY: Two trucks racing led to crash that killed 2 boys in Cedar Park, police say

In their opening statement Tuesday, prosecutors argued that the racing caused the deaths of Elijah Chaudhary, 7, and Daniel Chaudhary, 1, in addition to the serious injury of Zara Chaudhary.

“Because of his actions, his choice, Elijah is no longer with us, and Daniel is no longer with us,” Assistant Williamson County District Attorney Leslie Booker said. “Zara suffered serious bodily injuries, specifically a traumatic brain injury.”

Todd Nickle, Hammer’s defense attorney, countered in his opening statement by saying that this was only a “horrible accident and not criminal behavior.” He admitted, however, that his client raced another truck.

Hayden Michael Hammer_618250
Hayden Hammer was arrested in connection to the crash in January 2018 (KXAN)

“Hayden acted immaturely,” Nickle said. “He acted like young kids with big trucks do.”

Nickle also told the jury the evidence will show that Zara Chaudhary pulled in front of Hammer when she turned left from Whitestone Boulevard onto Walton Way and caused the crash.

“It was unavoidable,” Nickle said. “There was nothing he could do, and the collision happened.”

Prosecutors played surveillance video in court captured by an auto repair shop, which showed the two trucks pass by, followed a few seconds later by the sound of a loud crash. One of the employees could be heard in the audio saying, “That sounded like a hard hit right there.”

One of the auto shop workers testified, saying, “I heard a loud explosion like a bomb going off. I actually felt it.”

The slain boys’ father, Salman Chaudhary, fought back tears when he took the stand Tuesday after the prosecutor showed him autopsy photos of his two sons.

Salman Chaudhary fights back tears when he took the stand Tuesday after the prosecutor showed him autopsy photos of his two sons (KXAN/Will DuPree)

He said his wife, Zara, could not travel from Pakistan to the trial because she is still dealing with severe health complications from the crash. He said she also cannot remember the day of the crash.

“She is in extreme pain that she is still suffering from,” Chaudhary explained from the witness stand. “She is under psychiatric treatment. They diagnosed her with PTSD.”

MORE: Mother of boy killed in Cedar Park crash seeking justice, safety improvements

Prosecutors also called the former chief deputy medical examiner from Travis County, who performed the autopsies on the two boys. They also showed graphic photos of the boys’ injured bodies that were taken before their surgical autopsies began.

The doctor testified that the cause of death for Elijah was “blunt force injuries,” while Daniel died from “blunt force head injuries.”

Prosecutors called three drivers who said they witnessed the trucks race and the ensuing crash. The defense pointed out inconsistencies with previous statements one witness made before trial.

The trial against Hammer resumes Wednesday morning.

The driver that Cedar Park police believe Hammer raced is also facing charges. Blake Kirkpatrick is charged with two counts of racing resulting in death and one count of racing involving serious bodily injury. A trial date for Kirkpatrick is still pending.

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