Pursuit Ends in Fiery, Fatal Crash

Investigators are still working to learn the circumstances behind a police pursuit and fiery car crash that killed a female suspect driver and her passenger Thursday morning in Coronado.

Early official reports said the female driver carjacked a Ford truck in Imperial Beach at knifepoint with a man who was detailing the vehicle in the backseat, but it is not yet known whether the woman knew the truck owner.

Sofia Smeykal said she was the girlfriend of the male victim.

""He’s such a nice guy. He does everything. He helps everybody. He works at the shipyards. He works at the shipyard. He’s from Mississippi. He’s such a nice person,” Smeykal said.

The incident in Imperial Beach led to a police pursuit and a fatal crash that closed Silver Strand Boulevard between Imperial Beach and Coronado.

A man and a woman detailing a full-sized grey Ford pickup truck were confronted by the woman carrying a knife in the 1200 block of Georgia Street in Imperial Beach Thursday morning according to investigators.

The woman with the knife jumped into the truck with the man still inside the truck's cab. San Diego County sheriff's deputies caught up with the pickup near 8th Street and Calla just before 8 a.m.

A pursuit lasted only five minutes but during that time, the suspect driver allegedly rammed a patrol car deputies said.

The female suspect lost control of her car along Silver Strand Boulevard in front of the high-rise condo buildings just south of the Hotel Del Coronado.

“The driver leaves Imperial Beach exceeding speeds of probably 80 mph, comes here to the Silver Strand weaving in and out of traffic,” said sheriff's spokesperson Jan Caldwell. “We believe the truck hit the little red car and flipped.”

The truck's undercarriage was on fire when firefighters arrived.

The suspected carjacker was found in the driver's seat and a man's body was found in the backseat of the cab, Caldwell said.

A dog was ejected from the truck but was not injured, according to Caldwell.

Four other cars were involved in a separate crash that may have been related to the chase. Deputies believe the drivers may have collided trying to avoid the speeding pickup. Two women and a man in those vehicles were injured and transported to nearby hospitals according to Caldwell.

“It was horrible. Fire. A dog flew by. It was very scary,” said one witness who was driving a carpool of five children to school.

”We saw fire and we saw a lot of crash,” Genia Santini said. “The kids were very scared, they were crying in the car.”

The Coronado City pool is right across the street from where the accident happened.

"We heard a bang, a bang, and a bang. Just like gunshots. Three consecutive bangs.  Rushed out, car was overturning, still moving. It was on fire. My fellow lifeguards and I called 911," said Coronado City Lifeguard Jay Sundahl.

The lifeguards said they ran out and started triage for five people, three whom were transported.

Coronado police closed both directions of Silver Strand Boulevard at Rendova.

Witnesses wondered why deputies hadn't broken off the pursuit for safety's sake. A tactical radio call heard during the pursuit indicated they were thinking about it, but the pileups happened 10 or 15 seconds later.

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