A driver in a stolen pickup caused a chain-reaction crash when he drove into oncoming vehicles on Lakeville Highway, causing a seven-car collision that snarled traffic for hours, CHP officials said.

Donald Hector, Jr., 42, of Oakdale sustained major injuries in the 11:50 a.m. crash. He fled the scene in another car but was apprehended later, CHP Officer David Thomas said.

After Hector is released from Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital, officers will arrest him on suspicion of driving under the influence of drugs and vehicle theft, Thomas said.

The crash began moments before noon on Lakeville Highway just south of the Old Lakeville Road No. 3 about a quarter mile north of Highway 37.

Hector was in a white 1998 Dodge pickup with passenger Dustin Odaniel, 18, of Oakdale when he apparently tried to pass slower traffic, Thomas said. The area is marked with double yellow lines, indicating it's illegal to pass.

"It happened so fast. I saw a white truck swerving into our lane, next thing you know ... I ended up getting ripped, knocked off the road," said Byron Byers, 34, of Laytonville who was heading south to see family in Hollister.

Four vehicles ahead of Byers had swerved to miss the Dodge but were side-swiped and ended up in a ditch off the side of the road.

The Dodge ended up sideways in the path of a Toyota Camry driven by Anthony Call, 52, of Healdsburg, the CHP said. The Toyota crashed into the Dodge, sustaining major front-end damage and injuring Call.

The Dodge then was broadsided by Byers' Pontiac Firebird, and the car careened off the road, its front end crumpling as it crashed into a barbed-wire fence, said Byers, who suffered bruises and cuts.

A Mercedes-Benz then crashed into the Pontiac, and the driver, off-duty San Francisco firefighter Jack Chow, 43, of American Canyon got out to see if anyone was injured.

A CHP helicopter crew flew Call to Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital out of precaution, although doctors later determined the injuries were minor, Thomas said.

Chow helped peel back a window of the Dodge because a passenger was trapped inside. The man, later identified as Odaniel, climbed out.

"He brushed me off. Then the guy in front, the driver, said, 'We gotta go, we gotta get out of here,' " said Chow.

Family members of Hector had been following in a Kia sedan, and witnesses said the two men ran across the road, jumped into the Kia and the female driver sped off.

Witnesses noted the license plate, and officers pulled the Kia over about 10 miles north on Lakeville Highway near the northbound Highway 101 on-ramp, Officer Mike Phennicie said.

Two women, a driver and passenger, were in the car with Hector and Odaniel, Thomas said.

The Dodge, which was reported stolen, had false license plates, Thomas said. Officers arrested Hector and Odaniel on suspicion of auto theft.

The family members who assisted Hector were interviewed and released.

You can reach Staff Writer Julie Johnson at 521-5220 or julie.johnson@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @jjpressdem.