Durham, N.C. — Two North Carolina State Highway Patrol troopers helped save the lives of two people over the weekend after a high-speed chase in Durham County that ended in a fiery crash and one person’s death.
Authorities said Monday that the driver of a Chrysler Crossfire was traveling at speeds of up to 140 mph early Saturday along N.C. Highway 98 when he lost control of his car, crossed the center line and hit a moving truck with two people inside.
That's when both vehicles burst into flames. The driver of the Crossfire, who still had not been positively identified Monday evening, died.
State troopers J.T. Mitchell and J.J. Garrett, however, were able to rescue both people in the truck. They were taken to a local hospital with minor injuries and were later released.
"You can't really describe it – the scene, with the fire and the debris. It was pretty bad," Mitchell said.
Mitchell crashed his cruiser into a utility pole while trying to avoid the fire. He was cut between his eyes.
Investigators said the Crossfire's driver had turned around to avoid a DWI checkpoint near North Adams Road. It's unclear why he tried to avoid the checkpoint.
The Highway Patrol is investigating the chase and the wreck, which is standard protocol.
Highway Patrol spokesman First Sgt. Jeff Gordon said there is a protocol for engaging in high-speed chases.
"We look at several factors, including traffic on the roadway, the time of day that this is occurring," Gordon said. "Also, you may know, at that particular point, depending on how close you are to that individual, if there is some type of violation."
Gordon said that troopers are trained to make split-second decisions and that they can also decide to end a pursuit if the public's safety is in jeopardy.
The troopers say they don't regret how they handled the chase, just the outcome.
"It's rough," Mitchell said. "Of course, our condolences go out to the family, because somebody has lost their life. It could have been a lot worse."