High speed chase ends in crash

A high speed pursuit, with suspect vehicle speeds exceeding 100 mph, landed 48-year-old Tammy McDonnald of Pagosa Springs upside down in her car at the bottom of an embankment and on a CareFlight medical helicopter to Mercy Regional Medical Center in Durango.

The incident unfolded about 4 p.m. Monday, when the La Plata County Dispatch Center received two separate phone calls from motorists reporting a possible drunk driver near Bayfield.

Soon thereafter, Bayfield Marshal 1st Deputy Gary Maestas stopped the vehicle, a 2004 Toyota Matrix, on U.S. 160 near Bayfield. Upon approaching the driver’s window, the vehicle, piloted by McDonnald, quickly sped away eastbound toward Pagosa Springs.

According to Colorado State Patrol (CSP) reports, a pursuit ensued with the suspect driving erratically and at high rates of speed.

Lieutenant Sean Curtis of the Archuleta County Sheriff’s Department said McDonnald’s top speed, hit about 107 mph.

At milepost 117, near the bottom of Yellow Jacket Pass in Archuleta County, a CSP report indicates McDonnald failed to negotiate a sharp left curve, causing the vehicle to launch off the right side of the roadway, becoming airborne and rolling 200 feet down an embankment before landing on its roof, pinning McDonnald inside.

“We went out to stop her with the stop sticks (spiked strips placed across the road to puncture vehicle tires), but she went off the road at the base of Yellow Jacket Pass. We never even got set up. She crashed before she got to our position,” Curtis said.

Rescue personnel extricated McDonnald and she was airlifted from the scene to Mercy Regional Medical Center, where she remains in stable condition.

Curtis said U.S. 160 was temporarily closed during the rescue effort and subsequent helicopter landing.

No other motorists were injured in the incident.

In addition to the Bayfield Marshals Office, the Archuleta County Sheriff’s Department, the La Plata County Sheriff’s Department and the Colorado State Patrol, staff from the Pagosa Fire Protection District and the Upper Pine Fire Protection District participated in the incident.

According the CSP Trooper Doug Wiersma, the Bayfield Marshals Office and the CSP are investigating the incident and crash — charges are expected.


Photo courtesy Tom Aurnhammer
A firefighter stands at the ready Monday at the scene of a crash at the bottom of Yellow Jacket Pass. Multiple agencies from Archuleta and La Plata counties responded to the scene. The vehicle reached speeds exceeding 100 mph during a chase that began in La Plata County. The driver was extricated from the vehicle and taken to Mercy Regional Medical Center by helicopter.