Monday night’s high speed chase began west of Thermopolis; ended in crash in West Riverton
(Riverton, Wyo.) – Last night’s high speed chase that ended with a wreck in Riverton began around 5 p.m. west of Thermopolis.
Thermopolis Police Department Spokesman Bill Gordon said shortly before 5 p.m. yesterday, Hot Springs County received a call from Park County about a woman wanted on a warrant headed out of Meeteetse and driving toward Thermopolis on Highway 120. Gordon said a Hot Springs County Sheriff’s Deputy went out to intercept the vehicle, which he did, but it became clear the female driver was not going to stop.
Gordon declined to comment on the nature of the warrant or the woman’s name.
Heading into Thermopolis, the driver then turned southbound on Highway 20 toward Wind River Canyon. Gordon said she was reportedly driving 60 mph through town. Once in the canyon she was reportedly driving between 80 and 100 mph.
Gordon said at one point she almost struck a parked deputy’s vehicle, which was partially blocking the road. She reportedly zig-zagged on and off the highway as she entered the canyon. He said she continued her high speeds “nearly causing a couple of crashes.” He said it was reported, but not confirmed, that she struck the wall of one of the tunnels in the canyon, causing damage to her vehicle.
The first of about nine spike strips was deployed several miles north of Shoshoni by Wyoming Highway Patrol, Gordon said. She successfully avoided it and continued to Shoshoni. Several others were set on both sides of the town, but she avoided them as well, driving off the road to do so.
“Fremont County Sheriff’s Deputies attempted to stop the fleeing woman several times by setting spike strips in Shoshoni, as well as two different locations on Highway 789, and one intersection inside the City of Riverton,” Fremont County Undersheriff Ryan Lee said in a news release. “The female driver of the vehicle was able to maneuver around and miss all the spike strips that were deployed by Deputy Sheriff’s.”
Leaving Shoshoni, Gordon said the driver was still traveling faster than 80 mph.
The fifth set was placed at about 5:47 p.m. outside of Riverton. Gordon said a sixth set was placed inside Riverton City limits. He explained her ability to avoid the strips because law enforcement was unable to set them covertly, and she could see the lights of the vehicles on the sides of the road as she approached.
The chase, Gordon said, was turned over to WHP as it neared Riverton. He was unclear on details surrounding what happened once she arrived in town.
“She eventually crashed her vehicle on West Main Street in Riverton,” Lee said. “Deputies assisted in extricating her from the vehicle.”
According to the Riverton Police Department, the woman turned from Highway 26 where a set of spike strips had been laid across the highway and onto Country Acres Road. She missed another set of spike strips at Dalley Road. She then turned south on North 8th West and then east on Sunset and south of Broadway to Main where she then headed west. The woman crashed and collided with cemetery monuments at Bott Monument, broke off a Century Link telephone pedestal and ruptured a natural gas line as the careening vehicle went sideways in the roadway and flipped upside down once hitting the curb, landing in the monument company’s yard.
“We were not involved in the chase,” said RPD Captain Eric Murphy. “We attempted to put down spike strips in several locations, but in each instance the driver was able to avoid them.” The vehicle was reported to have veered toward an officer at the side of the road in one instance and in getting out of the path of the vehicle, the spike strips were moved. Murphy said the RPD was contacted by State Troopers after the speeds reached up to 120MPH between Shoshoni and Riverton. Officers were involved in directing traffic away from the route of the suspect.
After the natural gas was turned off at the crash scene, the suspect was taken to Riverton Memorial Hospital. The RPD reported this morning the driver was taken by air ambulance to Salt Lake City after emergency treatment in Riverton.
The RPD’s Murphy said the woman was throwing objects out of her vehicle along the chase route, including a plastic tub of what is believed to be counterfeit money and checks. “People were collecting the evidence and bringing them to our office,” Murphy said.
Captain Lee said his deputies were not actively involved in chasing the vehicle, but, like the RPD, were racing ahead to clear intersections and direct motorists away from the chase route.
Because of the numerous jurisdictions involved in the incident, State Troopers are handling the investigation. Calls to the Wyoming Highway Patrol have not been immediately returned.
More information will be posted when available.
Managing Editor Ernie Over also contributed to this story.