State police: Pursuit ended before crash that killed two
By Joe Beck -- firstname.lastname@example.org
Virginia State Police released more details Monday of a continuing investigation into a motorcycle crash late Friday that took the lives of two on U.S. 11 in Frederick County.
State police spokesman Corrine Geller said Senior Trooper K.L. Myers, who had begun chasing the motorcycle on I-81, was stopped at the intersection of U.S. 11 and Welltown Road when the motorcycle crashed into a minivan at the next intersection up the road.
Jared R. Toothman, 26, of Capon Bridge, W.Va., and JenaLee C. McGrane, 21, also of Capon Bridge, were thrown from the 2002 Honda CBR600 motorcycle and died at the scene.
Two adults and four children in the minivan were treated for minor injuries, state police said.
Geller said eyewitness reports led investigators to estimate the motorcycle was traveling more than 70 mph when it crashed into the van, ending a chase that lasted one minute and covered two miles.
Geller said the chase began in the northbound lane of I-81 between the 317 and 318 mile markers shortly before 10:30 p.m. She said Myers attempted to stop Toothman for traveling 85 mph in a 70 mph zone, a speed classified at reckless driving under state law.
She said Toothman sped away, took exit 317 and ran three red lights before hitting the minivan, a 2005 Pontiac Montana.
"Our policy is not to run red lights," Geller said in explaining why Myers had stopped his pursuit at the time of the accident.
Geller said a follow up investigation by the State Police Accident Reconstruction Team revealed that Toothman was riding without a valid motorcycle operator's license and that the motorcycle was improperly registered. She said investigators have also concluded that alcohol was a factor in the crash.
State police pursuit policies require dispatchers to inform a supervisor when a chase has begun, but Friday's night pursuit ended before the dispatcher had enough time to dial the supervisor's phone number.
"However, a supervisor was notified upon its conclusion," she said.
No information was available on the number of fatalities so far this year involving pursuits by Virginia State Police. Available agency data shows state police pursuits led to single deaths in four of the previous five years, the lone exception being four deaths recorded in 2008.
In 2011, there were 193 state police pursuits statewide that led to 41 accidents, 19 injuries, a single death and the arrests of 110 drivers, according to agency data.
"Pursuits only occur when and because a motorist makes a conscious decision to break the law by fleeing a law enforcement officer," Geller said.