WILLIS- The DPS investigation continued on Monday into an automobile versus building crash on Sunday, when a 23-year-old Woodlands resident crashed an SUV through the wall of the Marina Shell station on FM 1097 at Lake Conroe Hills, which injured four people.
The driver of the 2002 Chevy Tahoe that crashed into the store was identified as 23-year-old Jenny Hopper, of The Woodlands. The Tahoe is registered to a 47-year-old woman with the same last name, who lives in a subdivision off of Longstreet Rd. in Willis.
Trooper Louis Niklas, the investigating officer, is now trying to identify and locate another person who was on the scene at the time of the accident, and is seen in video of the crash, captured from three angles by the store’s security cameras.
The video shows an 8-year-old boy at the counter, just before the Tahoe plows into the store. Two adults can then be seen climbing from under the debris and disappearing to the left side of the frame. At the same time, an unidentified man runs into the top of the frame (the rear of the store) with the dust not settled, and grabs the boy from under the rubble, then hands him off to his mother when she runs toward where her son stood a moment earlier. The unidentified man is then seen exiting way he entered, and has his hand cupped over his mouth as though the dust is choking him. It is unclear whether the Good Samaritan was inside the store or entered through the rear door. Either way, Niklas hopes to find him.
“He could’ve just run like everybody else, but he didn’t,” Niklas said. “He had to think quick to decide to do that.”
Four people were injured, with a 40-year-old white male transported by ground ambulance to a local hospital with non-life threatening injuries and the other three, including the boy, seeking medical care by private vehicle.
The video shows Hopper rummaging in the SUV immediately after the crash, as though she is looking for something, before she opens the door and gets out inside the store with her purse. Her 25-year-old male passenger remains in the truck. Hopper does not rush to the pile of debris which could still have people beneath it, but examines the truck.
She told Niklas her brakes failed, he said, but there was no evidence supporting that claim, since the brakes were working after a wrecker pulled the SUV from the store.
Niklas said Hopper did not appear impaired in any way and Public Data shows no history of driving while intoxicated or any other criminal offenses.
She was not taken into custody on the scene, and Monday afternoon Niklas was still trying to determine what, if any, charges the Woodlands woman would face.
Meanwhile, store owner Mario Perie was trying to begin restoring his business, which has an estimated 100,000+ in damages, including his full cigarette rack, which he said was one of the biggest losses with the product’s current price at around $6 per pack. His Texas Lottery machine and cash register were also lost, along with many of the store fixtures and other merchandise.
Perie was behind the checkout counter at the time of the crash, and the video shows him running toward the rear of the store when the truck bursts through the wall. He said the event gave him an unprecedented fright, along with his customers.
“There were two or three customers – when they got hurt, they started crying,” Perie said.
“I never experienced anything like this,” Perie said, laughing nervously. “I got totally stunned.”
The victims were not available for comment on Monday.
Perie hopes to reopen next week.