Police Pursuits may be exciting to watch on television, but law enforcement officers understand that the excitement is trumped by the danger involved to the public and to the drivers themselves.
That reality was tragically illustrated by the deaths of Paul Simmons, 33, and Christa Mower, 27, early Friday morning. The victims were identified by Carbon County Sheriff James Cordova, whose deputies were involved in two chases that day, along with officers from the Price City Police Department and Utah Highway Patrol.
“It’s never a pleasant thing to deal with,” Cordova said, “especially for the families of the people that are left behind. My deepest condolences go out to the families, the loved ones, and the friends that are impacted by this.”
The day’s terrible events began at approximately 2 a.m., when the pair failed to yield to the officer that attempted to pull over the motorcycle they were riding.
After a chase that stretched through North Price, and eventually onto Highway 6 with speeds exceeding 130 mph, law enforcement elected to terminate the pursuit because of concerns for safety.
Deputies turned off lights and sirens and continued in the direction of travel as the vehicle sped away eastbound on Highway 6. Law enforcement continued the search, but had no success.
At approximately 3:20 a.m.,В a call came in from Union Pacific reporting a crash on the west side of Wellington. Officers found the bodies of Simmons and Mower at the site.
Sheriff’s Captain Guy Adams reported that “initial investigations revealed the driver of the motorcycle failed to negotiate the turn leading into Wellington,” and the two had died on impact.
The Highway Patrol completed the accident investigation. Sergeant Warren Nelson reported that a lack of skid marks on the road at the accident site indicated that the tires were “rolling, not skidding” as the motorcycle left the road.
The driver involved in the later chase was identified as 35-year-old Mike Ashby of Richfield. Cordova reported that as Deputy Isaiah Palmer contacted Ashby during a theft investigation, the man jumped into his vehicle and fled the scene.
The pursuit began at 12:55 p.m. on Upper Coal Creek Road, then moved to Airport Road where the suspect dodged two sets of spikes before moving onto a dirt road near the Animal Hospital to avoid a third set.
From there the driver led law enforcement through the Castle Heights area, and eventually onto Carbonville Road, before finding himself at a dead end after turning onto 760 West. Ashby then abandoned his truck in an attempt to evade officers on foot before being taken into custody without incident.
Cordova reported that Ashby had an outstanding warrant, and was charged with reckless driving, fleeing and evading, aggressive reckless driving, avoiding apprehension, felony possession of a dangerous weapon, denied driver’s license, and criminal mischief related to Friday’s incident.
The Sheriff said he believes a combination of factors including the warrant and denied license led to the suspect attempting to flee.
Cordova was pleased with the professionalism of the officers and deputies involved the pursuits. “All that were involved in this chase did their job and did it professionally,” he said. “Anytime you initiate a high speed chase or in a situation when a citizen is fleeing, your first question is ‘why are they fleeing?’
“You have to take into account not only the danger to bystanders, but the danger to the people that are fleeing. That is our first concern to make sure people’s safety is ensured.”
The circumstances and results of both pursuits were markedly different, but Cordova encourages citizens to learn a single lesson from both. “When an officer official activates their emergency lights, yield to the officer,” the Sheriff instructed. “Just comply with law enforcement.”