Wrong-way Glenn Highway chase ends in crash
Several people were injured late Friday night in a two-vehicle collision near Birchwood, which closed the Glenn Highway northbound for hours and ended a wrong-way police chase that started in Palmer.
Palmer Police Chief Lance Ketterling said the driver of the suspect vehicle -- 32-year-old Corey J. Murphy -- was treated for injuries and arrested Saturday on five counts of third-degree assault, plus one count each of drug-based DUI, eluding and reckless driving. There wasn't immediate word on whether any further charges were pending.
Nobody died in the crash, Ketterling said.
"All the injuries were in the minor, non-life-threatening range," Ketterling said.
The chase began near the Alaska State Fairgrounds in Palmer.
“One of the Palmer police officers initiated a traffic stop at about [11:20 p.m.],” Ketterling said. “That vehicle failed to yield, and it eluded southbound on the Glenn Highway.”
The vehicle briefly pulled out at the Mirror Lake exit, Ketterling said, then returned to the Glenn heading inbound in the highway’s outbound lanes. Palmer police continued their pursuit until the suspect vehicle struck another vehicle near the North Birchwood exit.
A video of the chase, taken from another car and posted on Facebook by Bobbie Davis, shows at least two police cars following the suspect vehicle into oncoming outbound traffic along the Glenn. One of the people in Davis’ vehicle shouts that the chase is taking place at speeds of “100 miles per hour.”
Ketterling didn’t have any confirmed speeds from the pursuit.
One passenger from the suspect vehicle was flown to Providence Alaska Medical Center by air ambulance, Ketterling said, while ground ambulances transported Murphy and its other passenger. Everyone in the vehicle that was struck was taken to Mat-Su Regional Medical Center with non-life-threatening injuries.
Birchwood resident James Caswell said he saw the extrication and medevac effort following the crash.
“It took them quite a while to remove the individuals," Caswell wrote on Facebook. "I heard the crash while laying in bed, got in my car and drove 30 seconds up toward the gas station and then sat there for 20-30 [minutes] or so before they were done extracting them. Such a terrible terrible story.”
Anchorage police responded to the crash, Ketterling said, but APD didn’t take part in the chase.
“My understanding is that they were not involved in the pursuit and it was a PPD chase,” Ketterling said.
The Glenn's outbound lanes were closed by the crash but reopened at about 5 a.m. Saturday, according to Anchorage police.
Palmer police do have a policy on terminating chases based on the risk they pose to public safety, Ketterling said. He didn’t immediately have word on whether Friday night’s pursuit was conducted in accordance with it.
“Officers engaged in a pursuit are constantly expected to assess the reason of the pursuit, and also the hazards of the pursuit and whether it needs to be discontinued,” Ketterling said. “All pursuits are evaluated for compliance.”
Court records show Murphy was arraigned Saturday morning in Palmer court. He remained in custody at the Mat-Su Pretrial Facility, according to a statewide inmate database.
Scott Jensen and Kevin Kelleher contributed information to this story.
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