CHP: Drunken driver flees crash near Windsor, leaving 4 passengers trapped

An intoxicated driver left his four passengers in a burning sedan after they flipped over on Old Redwood Highway near Windsor Sunday night, authorities said.

Healdsburg resident Joel Mendez Santiago, 20, was arrested about 10:10 p.m. Sunday in the 11000 block of Old Redwood Highway. He’s suspected of felony DUI, felony hit-and-run and driving unlicensed, California Highway Patrol Officer David DeRutte said.

Santiago drove a black Dodge Dart with four male passengers who were all intoxicated, the officer said.

They were heading north on Old Redwood Highway when the suspect ran a stop sign at Eastside Road, the CHP said, adding that he crashed into a concrete wall and caused the vehicle to roll onto its side.

A passerby dialed 911 after spotting the overturned car at 9:54 p.m., said Cyndi Foreman, Sonoma County Fire District division chief and fire marshal.

Santiago and his passengers were inside the car when a Sonoma County sheriff’s deputy arrived. The deputy used a fire extinguisher to put out a small engine fire, before assisting the occupants, Foreman said.

The driver pulled himself out of the broken driver’s side window and ran off, DeRutte said.

Two of the passengers were unconscious when authorities arrived.

All four were taken to Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital. Two had major injuries and two had moderate injuries, DeRutte said.

Santiago was transported to the hospital for minor injuries.

After the suspect was cleared by hospital staff, he failed a field sobriety test and was booked in the Sonoma County jail, DeRutte said.

You can reach Staff Writer Alana Minkler at 707-526-8511 or On Twitter @alana_minkler.

Alana Minkler

Breaking news & general assignment reporter, The Press Democrat

The world is filled with stories that inspire compassion, wonder, laughs and even tears. As a Press Democrat reporter covering breaking news, tribes and youth, it’s my goal to give others a voice to share these stories.

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