WINSLOW, Maine — The driver who died early Saturday morning after leading police on a high-speed chase had had his license revoked and was likely intoxicated at the time of the crash, according to police.

The chief of the Winslow Police Department said Monday that the sergeant involved in the chase was following the department’s new policy involving high-speed pursuits. But as required under the policy, the chase will be reviewed by a panel that will include two outside officials.

Killed instantly were 32-year-old Ronald Willey of Chelsea, the driver, and his passenger, 28-year-old Joseph Knox of Randolph. The car slammed broadside into a tree on Bog Road in Vassalboro at about 1 a.m. at an undetermined speed.

Willey had his license revoked for being a habitual offender, Winslow Police Chief Shawn O’Leary said Monday. Willey had 12 motor vehicle convictions and his license had been suspended 14 times, with the latest in May 2012 for operating after suspension, according to the Winslow chief.

The chief said Sgt. Haley Fleming first attempted to pull over Willey’s car on Bay Street for a broken tail light. The car pulled into the parking lot of the Cumberland Farms convenience store, but then drove off. The police chief said the sergeant then decided to pursue because the motorist was driving erratically and was creating an imminent threat to public safety.

The chase went for about 7 miles, ending at a sharp curve at the crest of a hill on Bog Road in Vassalboro, where Willey’s vehicle slammed broadside into a tree. Speeds during the chase ranged from 65 to 80 miles per hour, the chief said. He said the speed limits along that 7-mile stretch vary but would have been 45 miles per hour at some locations. The chase began in a commercial area but continued on through residential areas.

Tissue samples were taken from Willey to determine his blood alcohol level, but those results will not be available for a couple weeks, according to Maine Public Safety spokesman Stephen McCausland. The chief said the way that Willey was driving indicates the fleeing driver was under the influence.

Maine State Police Trooper Diane Vance said in her 20 years in law enforcement, she has never seen a vehicle so destroyed. The impact caused the engine to separate from the 2004 Dodge Stratus. The state police accident reconstruction division will determine the vehicle’s speed.

The Winslow chief said that having the state police investigate is standard procedure.

O’Leary said that one of his first tasks upon becoming chief of the department in May 2014 was to review department policies, including the one about police pursuit. He said the department reviewed that policy thoroughly and made changes to it. Fleming is the department’s training officer for that policy, the chief said.

The factors that officers must consider in deciding whether to undertake a high-speed pursuit are the seriousness of the suspected offense, the threat to public safety from the motorist, the weather conditions, road conditions and the driving experience of the officer.

“Officers have to make a split-second decision after they go through a mental checklist,” O’Leary said.

The pursuing officer also must contact the shift supervisor, who in this case was Fleming, the chief said. In this case, Fleming notified other agencies of the pursuit and officers from the state police and Kennebec County Sheriff’s Office were responding when the crash occurred.

The sergeant did not witness the crash but came upon the wreck moments after it happened. A team of eight troopers went to the crash site, along with the members of the sheriff’s office and the Vassalboro Fire Department.

Firefighters had to use extrication equipment to remove the two bodies from the car.

The Winslow police chief said the chase will be reviewed by a panel that will include a supervisor from another department as well as an instructor in operating emergency vehicles.


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