Mount Airy police are seeking the driver in a weekend hit-and-run incident that caused thousands of dollars in damage to trees and other property along Independence Boulevard.
“We haven’t arrested anyone,” Police Chief Dale Watson said Tuesday, “but we do have a suspect and were just trying to locate that individual.”
In addition to damaging city property — including crape myrtle trees along the south side of West Independence Boulevard — the suspect vehicle, which has been located, received an estimated $8,000 in damage — putting the total from the incident at $14,000.
It occurred shortly before 7 a.m. Sunday, when an SUV veered off the right side of the street while apparently headed east on Independence Boulevard near the Willow Street intersection. The vehicle plowed into objects in its path, including snapping a utility pole.
Seven crape myrtle trees valued altogether at $3,500 were run over, along with a $1,500 fire hydrant and the CenturyLink telephone pole worth $1,000.
Chief Watson said witnesses saw the vehicle involved fleeing the scene and that they were instrumental in its identification.
The heavily damaged 2000 Toyota 4Runner was located near the crash site, Watson said, and evidence located in the vehicle led to the identification of a suspect in the hit and run, a male individual whose name has not been released publicly.
That person had not been encountered by police at last report late Tuesday.
Sunday’s hit-and-run incident is not the first time crape myrtle trees along Independence Boulevard have been victimized.
The crape myrtles were first introduced along that street in the 1980s as part of a beautification project by the late Susan Ashby, who spearheaded numerous appearance and historic-preservation efforts in Mount Airy.
But a large portion of those trees — about 60 in all — had to be replaced in 2009, after the crape myrtles were found to be dying. This was traced to root damage caused the year before when a South Carolina company doing landscape work for the city government sprayed what was described as “the wrong chemical” around the trees.
That company agreed to replace crape myrtles that appeared to be dead or dying with new ones.
Some of those replacements are believed to be among the trees knocked down during the weekend hit-and-run incident, but that could not be confirmed Tuesday with municipal personnel.
Tom Joyce may be reached at 336-415-4693 or on Twitter @Me_Reporter.