FAIRFIELD, Calif. – Experts believe a 27-year-old driver lied to police, her family and reporters about an accident that happened in late March.
During an interview from her U.C. Davis hospital bed on Monday, Nicole West-Hutchings said that around 7:30 p.m. on March 27 she had car problems on Interstate 80 near Fairfield and pulled onto the shoulder. She said then a big rig side swiped her, forcing her car up an embankment; it then rolled back down. She also said the driver of a green truck with a white trailer never stopped.
"I saw these lights coming right at my car," West-Hutchings said. "Then I felt the car hit the hill, then go into some lanes and from there I remember flying out of the car and grabbing my head, thinking, 'you have to grab your head, you have to grab your head.'"
"I'm just angry that he didn't have the compassion in him to pull over," she added.
However, she told the California Highway Patrol something entirely different.
"Her statements put her at 65 miles per hour in the number four lane," Solano CHP Officer Chris Parker said. "She states she was rear-ended by a big rig."
Now, what really happened is being questioned. Was she parked on the side of the road, or was she rear-ended while driving?
News10 took photos of Nicole's car to veteran Accident Reconstructionist Chris Kauderer. When asked if there is any way either of scenarios happened, Kauderer said, "No."
"If we were to believe there was a sideswipe by a tractor-trailer, we would expect to see damage down the left side of the vehicle," he added, pointing out the essentially undamaged left side of her Toyota Avalon.
And the rear-ending scenario?
"We would expect to see damage along the entire rear bumper of the vehicle," he explained -- which again, there isn't.
A spokesperson for the Solano area CHP also agrees, saying there is no evidence of a hit-and-run.
News10 originally interviewed West-Hutchings on April 7, but due to inconsistencies in the story and physical evidence not supporting either story, an editorial decision was made to hold off until the investigation was done. On Friday morning, CHP was able to comment on the story because the accident report was completed.
Other television stations and newspapers reported the story as-is, proclaiming that the public's help was needed to find the hit-and-run driver.
On Friday, the CHP and Kauderer agreed that the hit-and-run never happened.
On Monday, Nicole was asked if she could be lying.
"It hurts that somebody would ask me that," she said. "I'm a very honest person, people say that every day. But I have a conscience, I can't lie."
West-Hutchings was normally communicating with News10 by text message. When she was told the investigation concluded that no hit-and-run existed, she stopped responding.
Kauderer said it's plausible that West-Hutchings was either distracted or dosed off behind the wheel and drove up the embankment on her own.
West-Hutchings was not wearing a seat belt, so she was thrown from the car and suffered very serious injuries. She said doctors think she won't be able to walk for at least three months.
It's possible West-Hutchings could face charges of filing a false police report, but that will be up to the Solano County District Attorney's Office.