CHULA VISTA, Calif. – A 19-year-old man suspected of driving under the influence crashed a Chrysler PT Cruiser early Monday while being pursued by Chula Vista police, who pulled the unconscious driver from the crumpled vehicle seconds before it erupted in flames.
The driver, who was not immediately identified, suffered a fractured leg and other injuries and was taken to a hospital for treatment, according to a Chula Vista Police Department statement.
Police said the PT Cruiser crashed through a guardrail, launched more than 100 feet over railroad tracks and plummeted down an embankment, bursting into flames just after the driver was freed.
Officers initially responded about 2:15 a.m. to the report of a fight in the 400 block of L Street, police said. The 911 caller said three people were involved in the brawl and one left in a white PT Cruiser, according to the CVPD statement.
While responding to the call, an officer spotted a vehicle matching that description speeding westbound on L Street. The PT Cruiser appeared to already be damaged, with sparks coming from parts hanging off the bottom of the vehicle, police said.
At least three police vehicles joined the pursuit, which reached speeds up to 80 mph on L Street as the suspect ran a red light at Broadway before crashing through the guardrail at Bay Boulevard just west of Interstate 5, police said. Officers used bolt cutters to breach a fence to get to the crashed PT Cruiser.
When they reached the car, the officers each grabbed one arm and pulled the unconscious driver from the wreckage, according to the CVPD statement. Seconds later, the vehicle was fully engulfed in flames.
Video footage captured the aftermath of the crash as paramedics carried the young man on a stretcher through the hole the officers had cut in the fence while firefighters doused the flames that engulfed the Chrysler.
Police said the driver was tested for alcohol, but was not immediately arrested due to his injuries and pending completion of an investigation being headed up by the CVPD's traffic division.