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California woman eludes police, survives crash
6/17/2009 By: Carole McWilliams
A California woman was airlifted to Mercy Medical Center Monday after fleeing an attempted traffic stop in Bayfield and crashing on the east side of Yellowjacket Pass.
According to Bayfield Marshal Jim Harrington, someone called in a report of a driver weaving on Highway 160 Monday afternoon.
Marshal Deputy Gary Maestas got the call from dispatch at around 4 p.m. He was driving west on 160, Harrington said, and saw the suspect eastbound vehicle, a 2004 Toyota Matrix. He turned around and followed.
Harrington said the suspect ducked behind the Shell station at the east edge of Bayfield, but another person saw that and called it in. The suspect got back on the highway, and Maestas stopped her near the turn-off to Sauls Creek. But as he got out and approached her car, the suspect sped away, headed east.
Maestas pursued. Harrington said that from what he heard over the radio, speeds reached 90 to 100 mph. At some point La Plata County Sheriff Duke Schirard joined Maestas in trying to keep the suspect from going into the oncoming lane, trying to get her to slow down.
“They were trying to box her in, but her driving was so erratic that they just had to get the attention of oncoming traffic,” Harrington said.
The suspect crashed at the bottom of the long hill on the east side of Yellowjacket Pass where the road curves left. The vehicle went off the right side of the road, became airborne for a distance, then rolled and came to rest on its top, pinning the driver inside.
“It was a very violent wreck,” Harrington said. He was amazed the driver survived. He didn’t know if she was wearing a seatbelt.
The driver, 48-year-old Tammy MacDonald of Apple Valley, Calif., was later extricated by Pagosa Springs and Upper Pine Rescue personnel and airlifted to Mercy Medical Center in Durango, where she was in stable condition on Tuesday.
Highway 160 was temporarily closed during the rescue effort and subsequent helicopter landing. The Bayfield Marshal’s Office and the Colorado State Patrol are investigating the incident and crash, and charges are expected.
Harrington told the Times, “We may allege driving under revocation, careless driving, and eluding a police officer.” The Marshal’s office charges won’t include drunk driving, because MacDonald refused a blood alcohol test, Harrington said.