A veteran is lucky to be alive after a tripod was thrown from an overpass in Sacramento, California and crashed through a van’s windshield, impaling his chest.
Since the terrifying incident, Officer Jim Young of California Highway Patrol South Sacramento tells PEOPLE they have named Matthew Adam Thompson, 32, as the suspect who they believe allegedly threw the stolen camera stand “deliberately” from the overpass and into the windshield of a military charity’s Dodge van which the veteran was a passenger in.
While the driver luckily did not suffer any injuries from the window crash so was able to pull the van over safely, the passenger was treated for his injuries at a nearby hospital and has since been released.
Speaking to PEOPLE, Young says a person, who authorities believe to be Thompson, was captured on surveillance camera stealing the Cal Trans survey team’s tripod in Sacramento around 10:34 a.m on Thursday morning.
Just five minutes later, the tripod was allegedly thrown over the overpass by Thompson and smashed straight into the vehicle’s windshield.
“At 10:39 a.m., the tripod was deliberately thrown from 2nd Street west of Interstate 5 and went through the windshield of a Dodge passenger van traveling on southbound Interstate 5,” Young says.
The van, which is owned by El Dorado Veteran Resources, was being driven by volunteer driver and veteran Tim Page, who said he nearly watched his life flash before his eyes.
“It was a very exciting few minutes and I’m glad I was able to pull over quickly and safely,” he wrote on Facebook. “65+ years old with lots of driving experience didn’t prepare me for this INSTANT surprise coming through our windshield. It showed me how quickly my life could have ended.”
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The transport was organized by the nonprofit organization, Military Family Support Group, which confirmed the passenger, who has yet to be identified, was lucky to be alive.
“Our veteran passenger was injured/hospitalized with broken ribs, stitches, and a half-collapsed lung,” they wrote in a post on Facebook. “Scary to think that just a few inches to the left could mean the difference between life and death.”
The veteran was transported to UC Davis Medical Center in Sacramento and was released from the hospital by Saturday, according to the Military Family Support Group.
Speaking to KCRA 3 after the incident, Page said he was driving the veteran from Sacramento International Airport to Placerville when the tripod suddenly came flying through the windshield.
“It was like a dream, for lack of a better description,” Page told the outlet. “It was very scary. And of course, seeing it with no blood spurting out was great, but at the same time, injuries don’t always have blood … Part of his shirt went into his lung as well, so it was a little scary later.”
Despite the “scary” injuries, the van’s driver also noted how the severity of the situation could have been much worse.
“I could’ve lost control of the van. We both could’ve been out in traffic,” he told the outlet. “There’s numerous things that could have happened but didn’t… life’s a wonderful thing when you don’t look at the bad part of life, you know, the miracles of life are great.”
After responding to the scene, Young tells PEOPLE that authorities looked back at surveillance footage to find the suspect, who they determined “was a white male adult wearing dark-colored shorts and shirt and blue sneakers.”
Later in the afternoon, Young says Sergeant B. Robinson of CHP found someone who matched their description walking along the street where the tripod was initially stolen.
“At approximately 1:20 pm, Sergeant B. Robinson observed a suspect matching the description of the suspect walking on Front Street where the initial theft occurred,” Young explains. “As Sergeant Robinson attempted to make contact, the suspect immediately fled on foot.”
“After a short foot pursuit, Sergeant Robinson was able to detain the suspect after a brief struggle with the help of Officer M. Burgess,” Young adds.
Once in custody, Thompson was questioned by South Sacramento CHP Special Investigations Unit (SIU) and then booked into Sacramento County Jail for an active warrant and resisting a peace officer, Young says.
Authorities are now planning to pursue Thompson for an attempted murder charge — even though he has not charged with this crime as of yet, according to KCRA 3.
“This is still an active investigation, and nobody has been charged with this crime at this time. Thompson is still a suspect and investigators are working non-stop to solve the case,” Young says.
An attorney for Thompson could not immediately be located by PEOPLE.