LAKELAND, Fla. (WFLA) — A midnight phone call from a detective led to a frenzied car ride for Jesse Jones.
“It was hard to keep it together,” he said. “I actually broke a lot of speed limits all the way here.”
The call was about his 29-year old son, Justin.
“Had it not been very close to this trauma center, he might not have made it,” Jesse Jones said.
The father of two is from the Gainesville area and was visiting Lakeland for a golf tournament with his co-workers, his father told News Channel 8.
Jones was walking across 98 North near the I-4 interchange back to the La Quinta Inn & Suites at around 10:30 p.m. Friday.
According to Lakeland Police, he was hit by a dark-colored lifted pickup truck.
The driver of the truck had tried to avoid hitting Jones but was not successful.
“The vehicle stopped in the northbound lanes of 98 and was then, a decision was made to flee the scene. So there was no question that this was a human that was hit,” said Officer Edgardo Cruz with the Lakeland Police Department.
Police said a witness took a picture of the truck as it was driving away.
Investigators believe it may have damage on the passenger side.
“There is not a definite lead as to what the license plate for the vehicle is, however, we have been getting several tips coming in as regard to this incident,” Cruz said.
Passersby stopped to help Jones until emergency responders arrived.
Jones was left with critical injuries to his head and body, including a broken pelvis, femur, toes, shoulder and ribs.
On Tuesday, his father said, Jones was breathing on his own without a machine, awake and saying words.
“It’s going to be a long road to recovery,” Jones said. “He’s got a lot to overcome but he’s young and strong and I think he’ll be OK.”
He hopes the driver and/or the two passengers believed to be in the truck come forward.
“Do the right thing,” Jones said. “If the shoe was on the other foot and it was one of his loved ones, I’m sure he would feel differently than he does now.”
A family friend, Rene Bartum, is offering a $3,000 reward for information on the driver and can be reached at 352-872-7222.
Heartland Crime Stoppers is also offering $1,500 for information leading to an arrest. Tips can remain anonymously by calling 1-800-226 TIPS (8477) or by visiting the website www.heartlandcrimestoppers.com and click on “Submit A Tip.”