A woman suffered extensive life-threatening injuries Thursday when she collided with an abandoned pickup traveling the wrong way on Interstate 215 in Menifee during a police chase.
The crash happened about 2:40 a.m. on northbound I-215 near Scott Road, according to the California Highway Patrol.
Officer Mike Lassig said that a short time before the impact, Hemet police officers had been pursuing the 1996 Dodge Ram pickup, which was occupied by two people, whose identities were unknown.
According to Lassig, police were trying to stop the driver for unspecified violations, but the suspect fled out of the city westbound, eventually turning south on Antelope Road, entering Menifee.
“The suspect turned off all the vehicle’s lights, blacked it out while traveling at a high rate of speed,” the CHP spokesman said.
He said that when the pickup reached the 215, the driver plowed through a perimeter fence and steered south on the northbound side of the freeway.
“The vehicle was observed driving blacked out, the wrong way and transitioned from the No. 3 lane to the No. 2 lane of I-215 northbound,” Lassig said. He added that Hemet police officers immediately terminated the pursuit, not entering the freeway, for public safety.
According to Lassig, while the Dodge was still moving forward at a slow speed, the driver and passenger bailed out and ran across multiple lanes on both sides of I-215, making their way through an open field, where officers lost sight of them.
The victim, identified only as a 55-year-old Lake Elsinore woman, was driving her 2016 Dodge Promaster van in the No. 2 lane of northbound I-215 at 65 mph and did not see the blacked-out pickup directly ahead of her, Lassig said.
“The van collided head-on into the pickup,” he said.
The woman was taken to Inland Valley Medical Center in Wildomar in critical condition.
Northbound I-215 was closed for several hours while the wreckage was cleared and a preliminary investigation was conducted. Lanes were reopened by daybreak.
Hemet police and CHP officers were conducting a joint investigation to identify and track down the suspects.
Anyone with information was asked to contact the police department at 951-765-2400, or the CHP’s Temecula station at 951-506-2000.