CEDAR PARK, Texas (KXAN) — The truck driver who was involved a crash that killed two boys in Cedar Park last week has been arrested and charged with two counts of racing on a highway causing death.
The Cedar Park Police Department says Hayden Michael Hammer, 18, was driving a Dodge Ram pickup truck on West Whitestone Boulevard when he slammed into a Nissan Rogue SUV on Jan. 10 around 3:45 p.m.
Based on evidence at the scene and surveillance video from nearby businesses, investigators determined Hammer was racing another truck in the westbound lanes of West Whitestone Boulevard when he struck the SUV as it was turning left onto Walton Way. Police say Hammer admitted to drag racing with the other driver.
The impact of the crash killed 1-year-old Daniel Chaudhary and 8-year-old Elijah Chaudhary. The 31-year-old woman driving, Zara Salman, was Daniel’s mother and Elijah’s stepmother. She remains in a coma in critical condition.
After police released information asking the public to help identify the other driver in a red or maroon Ford F-260, on Friday morning they said they have been able to identify them but they have not released their name.
KXAN spoke with a man who was among the good Samaritans who tried to save the lives they could. Hearing the sound of the crash, we’re told a couple of nearby workers and a witness came running.
“We noticed that the mom wasn’t breathing so we kicked in the driver’s door, pulled it open. I asked if anybody had a knife and we cut the airbag open,” a young man who works in the area said. He asked that KXAN not identify him, explaining not all of his co-workers agreed with him jumping in to help the victims before EMS arrived.
“We felt that it was best that we pulled her out and got her to where we could perform CPR,” he explained, saying he couldn’t just stand by — not when he thinks back on his own story.
“When I was younger I was in a car accident and I was pulled from the car,” he said, recalling how construction workers saved him when he was only about 8 years old himself.
“That was the only way me and my parents actually survived,” he said. “That was the only thing that was going through my mind when that wreck happened. So I figured I was given a chance, well I can give somebody else a chance.”
In helping one life, he says he witnessed the life of another change before his eyes.
“Recognized him from high school,” he said. “When I arrived up on the scene he said, ‘Oh my God. I just killed three people.’ And then he was in tears and he was shaking his head, went off to the side.”
Mohammed-Umer Esmail, a family friend of those killed told KXAN, “They were a wonderful family. Very loving. They were looking forward to settling into the area and getting to know the community and this happened to them. The whole community is reeling from it and we’re trying our best to help the family in any way possible.”
They put together a fundraiser for family, which has already brought in more than $36,000. The goal is to reach $45,000.
“This is a reminder to all motorists that racing on a highway can have severe consequences,” said Cedar Park Police Commander Bryan Wukasch.
There have been several deadly crashes tied to racing in Williamson County. Just over a year ago, a husband and wife were killed after their car was hit on FM 1325 in Round Rock. Authorities said a Lexus and another car were racing before striking the couple’s Mercury Grand Marquis.
And then in 2016 a father and daughter were killed while walking near A.W. Grimes and Gattis School Road. Round Rock police said two Ford Mustangs were racing when one of them hit a silver van, causing that van to crash into the pair. In both of these crashes, one driver was arrested and the other got away.
Cedar Park police said they arrested a driver in another racing crash, not far from the one on West Whitestone Boulevard, on Tuesday. Police say the reality of these cases is, it can be tough to track people down. Racing can happen anywhere at any time, so they rely on surveillance video, when available, and witness details.
Thursday, Cmdr. Wukasch said he hasn’t seen any changes year-to-year when it comes to the number of calls they receive related to racing.