Police pursuit ends in fatal crash
By GREG WELTER - Staff Writer
10/27/2006 12:08:18 AM PDT
PARADISE—Clark Road between Wagstaff Road and the Skyway was closed until late Thursday night following a 2:30 p.m. head-on crash that instantly killed a young woman and a wanted felon fleeing from police.
Neither of the deceased were identified by press time.
Butte County sheriff's Lt. Andy Duch said investigators had been conducting surveillance on the wanted man at his Magalia residence, and on Thursday they followed him and a female as they drove west on the Skyway toward Paradise.
He said the man was considered armed and dangerous.
As they neared the town limits, Paradise police joined the surveillance.
Officers attempted a felony car stop at Skyway and Clark, according to Duch.
He said the female driving the vehicle, a green Toyota 4-Runner, immediately stopped and climbed out, surrendering to officers with her hands in the air.
The male in the vehicle moved to the driver's seat and sped away, with deputies and Paradise police in pursuit.
The chase ended seconds -- and about a half-mile -- later when the felon lost control of the SUV on a curve and slammed head-on into a green Ford Explorer traveling east on Clark.
The collision took place near Kilcrease Circle and Clark, just beyond the entrance to the Apple Tree Village Mobile Home Park.
Resident Kim Cateron said she heard sirens from the police cars coming up Clark, then heard what she described as an explosion.
The vehicles came to rest nose to nose and were heavily damaged. Duch said the wanted felon was traveling at an estimated 70 to 90 mph.
Officers and emergency medical personnel were on the scene within seconds, but they said both drivers appeared to be dead and were trapped inside the vehicles.
A pit bull in one of the vehicles reportedly survived the crash and was taken into custody by animal control officers.
Local officers from the California Highway Patrol were called to the scene to begin an investigation, then asked for a special team of major accident investigators from the CHP's Sacramento office.
They were expected to arrive late Thursday afternoon.
Sheriff's deputies declared the crash a crime scene, sealing off Clark Road about 100 feet on either side of the collision.
Local residents with identification were eventually allowed to drive on Clark between Wagstaff and the Skyway, but for about an hour after the collision some residents of the mobile home park were denied access.
Resident manager Terry Lapp walked about a half-mile carrying groceries up Clark Road. When she told sheriff's deputies several elderly residents who couldn't make the walk were waiting down at Wagstaff, they were allowed to drive through.
The Enterprise-Record was unable to locate anyone, except officers, who witnessed the collision. Several people gathered near the accident scene were upset to learn that an innocent young woman was dead because a suspected criminal was trying to evade police.
It was later learned that the woman in the car with the wanted felon had filed, or intended to file, a temporary restraining order against the man.
Officials said the woman may face charges, and her involvement with him is under investigation.
The crime scene remained under investigation until late Thursday night.