2 killed in I-4 police chase

By Alicia A. Caldwell | Sentinel Staff Writer
Posted June 14, 2003

ALTAMONTE SPRINGS -- A chase that started with a report of gunfire led to a rollover on Interstate 4 early Saturday that killed two people, injured two others and snarled traffic along the expressway for nearly nine hours.

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement is investigating the crash, which closed much of the six-lane highwayabout 2:30 a.m. nearly three-quarters of a mile west of the State Road 436 overpass.

Four men were in the white Ford Expedition that flipped while being pursued by a Seminole County sheriff's cruiser, sheriff's spokesman Steve Olson said Saturday.

The chase began east of Altamonte Springs near Club 436 at S.R. 436 and Anchor Road. An off-duty deputy working security at the nightclub heard the shot about 2:15 a.m., and a witness pointed to the Expedition sport utility vehicle driving away.

A sheriff's corporal, on patrol nearby with a deputy trainee, began following the SUV along S.R. 436 toward the I-4 overpass. Olson said deputies tried to stop the vehicle, but the driver kept going.

As the chase continued onto the westbound lanes of the interstate, the driver of the Ford forced the corporal's patrol car into a guardrail and then lost control, Olson said. The Expedition hit the guardrail and rolled several times, landing in the eastbound lanes.

Two men in the SUV were ejected and died at the scene. The others were taken to Orlando Regional Medical Center, but no information about their conditions was available Saturday.

FDLE spokesman Ron Pasquarella said investigators were withholding the names of the dead and injured until "the investigation is further along." He said the corporal, the trainee and others still were being interviewed Saturday afternoon.

Neither of the deputy sheriffs was hurt, Olson said.

Traffic slowed as personnel from the FDLE, Florida Highway Patrol and the SeminoleCountySheriff's Office worked at the accident scene. Investigators routed vehicles around the wreckage to the far edges of the road, leading to backups of several miles in each direction.

Pasquarella said investigators kept much of the road closed through the morning to "reconstruct the accident." Several times during the process, officials stopped traffic in both directions to clear the roadway and, in one instance, to let a helicopter onto the highway.

Olson said the helicopter was brought in so a forensics investigator could take aerial photos and video of the crash site. Investigators also were reviewing videotape from the deputy's patrol car that recorded the pursuit and subsequent crash, he said.

The Expedition was removed from the road by late morning, and by about 12:30 p.m., the traffic delays in both directions had cleared.

FDLE is leading the accident investigation because the deaths stemmed from a law-enforcement chase. The Sheriff's Office is investigating the shooting report separately.

Alicia A. Caldwell can be reached at acaldwell@orlandosentinel.com or 386-851-7924.