A tow truck driver helped lead authorities to arrest a suspect in the fatal DUI crash that killed a grandmother and a toddler Saturday morning on Interstate 15.
CHP officials said Erin Hughes, a tow truck driver who works for Pacific Auto Center, did not know the suspect was involved in a fatal hit-and-run when he towed his vehicle to Vista.
Later when Hughes heard the story on the news, he called CHP to report that he'd driven the suspect home. This tip helped the authorities find and arrest suspect Grant Thoren, a 31-year-old man in Vista.
Hughes said an older man was also with Vista, and he could tell that Thoren had been drinking and was clearly very upset.
"Even when he got up he was kind of staggering," Hughes told NBC 7 in an exclusive interview.
The deadly crash that happened on the southbound I-15 and Scripps Poway Parkway took the lives of a 64-year-old woman and her two-year-old daughter.
According to CHP, the suspect was driving a silver Cadillac CTS when he crashed into the Honda carrying a family of four. Thoren allegedly stopped for a moment and then took off. A different pickup truck also slammed into the victims' car and remained at the scene.
Meanwhile, Thoren exited on Mira Mesa Boulevard, drove to a gas station, and called the towing company to have his car taken to his residence in Vista.
"The alignment was off a little bit but it wasn't that bad...when I greeted them shaking their hands, his handshake seemed kind of lifeless in his hand," said Hughes, remembering the damage to the car and the suspect's odd behavior.
"I had a feeling they didn't want to be seen. They wanted me to drop the car in the driveway as quietly as possible," said Hughes.
Soon after he left the residence, Hughes saw a news report and realized the car was part of the crash.
"They gave a description of a silver CTS. That was the car I just towed, so I called it into CHP," said Hughes.
Within a few hours, law enforcement made an arrest.
A grandmother, a 35-year-old mother, a 5-year-old girl and a 2-year-old girl were sitting in the vehicle together when they were struck. The surviving mother and 5-year-old girl were taken to local hospitals where they are being treated for major injuries.
After learning about the lives that were lost, Hughes said he always tries to help the authorities in any way he can while on the road.
"I felt bad for the families, you know," said Hughes.
Thoren is facing multiple charges including DUI, felony hit-and-run and homicide, the CHP confirmed. The investigation is ongoing.