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Police chase called off minutes before fatal crash on Arkansas

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Monday, Oct. 28, 2013, at 1:19 p.m.
  • Updated Thursday, Jan. 9, 2014, at 7:06 a.m.

A van involved in a fatal collision in north Wichita early Sunday had been fleeing from police just minutes before the crash, officials said Monday.

One of the people in the van – who fled the scene of the collision before officers arrived – has an outstanding warrant linked to an unsolved 2007 homicide, Capt. Brent Allred said.

Authorities had called off the chase just after 2 a.m. after speeds reached 60 to 70 mph or more on Broadway as the van headed north before turning west on 24th Street. The 2005 gray Chevrolet van continued west on 24th and ran a stop sign at Arkansas, Allred said, slamming into a sedan coming south.

The driver of the sedan, 34-year-old Maria Martinez, was taken to a local hospital, where she was later pronounced dead, Allred said. Martinez’s 39-year-old husband, a passenger in the sedan, was hospitalized with injuries not considered life-threatening.

Two people in the van, a 22-year-old man and a 22-year-old woman, have also been hospitalized, Allred said. It’s not yet clear who was driving the van during the chase, he said.

The chase was called off at 2:02 a.m. and the collision occurred two minutes later about 1.5 miles away. As a result, Allred said, authorities do not consider the chase to have contributed to the fatal collision.

“To me, that’s plenty of time to slow down,” Allred said. “We weren’t actively pursuing that vehicle at the time of the collision.”

Authorities are not yet sure how fast the van was going when it ran the stop sign. The force of the impact knocked the sedan into a church parking lot on the southwest corner of the intersection.

“I can tell you from the impact that the van was going at a fairly high rate of speed,” Allred said.

The incident began after officers in Old Town spotted a disturbance in the 100 block of North Washington shortly before 2 a.m. Sunday, Allred said. As they approached, they saw the individual wanted on two warrants – including the 2007 homicide – get into a 2005 gray Chevy van.

The driver refused commands to stop, instead driving west on Douglas and then north on Market. In the 200 block of North Market, officers behind the vehicle turned on lights and sirens in an attempt to pull the van over. But the van sped ahead and turned east on 13th before turning north on Broadway.

Martinez’s death is the 28th in traffic accidents so far this year, Allred said, adding that her death is “senseless.”

“It is a sad deal when these things occur and innocent people lose their life,” he said.

Reach Stan Finger at 316-268-6437 or sfinger@wichitaeagle.com. Follow him on Twitter: @StanFinger.

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