Wreck leaves cab driver in critical condition

Christian Heller, the driver of a Buick station wagon at right, sustained a punctured lung following a wreck Saturday night. (Staff photo: Eric Kluth)

By Darrell Todd Maurina: CNJ Staff Writer

A Clovis City Cab driver remained in critical condition Monday following a Saturday night crash at a busy intersection.

Christian Heller Jr., 24, was northbound on Prince Street and stopped for a red light at 21st Street when his 1994 Buick station wagon was struck from behind, police said.

Tim Walton, 44, of Clovis, has been charged with great bodily injury by vehicle. Police said Walton was not seriously injured in the wreck. He was released Monday from Curry County Adult Detention Center after posting $10,000 bond.

Attempts to contact Walton through family members were not successful on Monday.

Both drivers were alone in their vehicles at the time of the accident, which occurred about 10:30 p.m.

Brian Burkman, also a cab driver, said Monday the company has suspended operations so Heller’s mother and father, co-owners of the company, can spend time with their son in Lubbock.

Heller’s father e-mailed the News Journal to report that his other son, Spc. Georg J. Heller who is stationed in Iraq, has been granted an emergency medical leave by the United States Army to return to his brother’s bedside.

Burkman said Christian Heller, whose injuries included a punctured lung, is a close friend.

“He’s been like a best friend, a little brother to me,” Burkman said. “The way he was raised, he would give his shirt to help someone out.”

A police report listed alcohol consumption, excessive speed, disregarding a traffic signal and inattention as “apparent contributing factors” in the wreck.

Lt. Ron Hutchinson, head of the Clovis Police Department’s Fatal Crash Team, said Heller had not consumed alcohol and none of his actions contributed to the crash.

Walton, who was driving a 2003 Ford pickup, could spend at least three years in prison if convicted of the charge against him.

Hutchinson said charges against Walton could be upgraded from great bodily injury by vehicle to homicide by vehicle if Heller dies. The greater charge carries a possible six-year prison sentence.

Hutchinson said Walton received a blood-alcohol test, but results will not be known for several weeks.

“We have several different witnesses who saw what happened and told us,” Hutchinson said. “We know there was a lot of speed involved.”