ST. GEORGE – The driver involved in a high-speed chase this morning that ended in both a collision with a vehicle coming opposition direction and in his own rollover, has been identified as Zane Sterling Skeen, a 34-year-old man from Klamath Falls, Oregon.
The incident remains under investigation but it appears to officers that he intended to make a head-on collision with the southbound vehicle, a white Subaru driven by a couple from Sandy, Utah.
The Sandy couple was transported with minor injuries to Intermountain Healthcare Southwest Region’s Dixie Regional Medical Center. Sgt. John T. Bottoms, Arizona Department of Public Safety, said he expects them to be treated and released.
“They were extremely lucky because it looked like Mr. Skeen tried to intentionally go head on with them on the highway,” Bottoms said, “but the driver was able to steer and miss that at the last possible moment. “
Bottoms said that Skeen came around past Utah exit 2, where there’s a little bit of a curve,. He said that officers were far enough back that when they came on the curve he’d already driven through the median and tried to go into southbound traffic on Interstate 15.
The innocent driver was in the lane next to the median, Bottoms said, calling it lane number 1; he moved to the right into lane number 2 to avoid Skeen, so did Skeen; he then moved into the emergency lane to avoid Skeen, so did Skeen; finally he moved back toward lane number 2 to avoid Skeen, so did Skeen, and with the distance between them closing went right down the side of the innocent driver’s vehicle, catching the back end of it. The innocent driver steered to the left, spun around, and Skeen went into a rollover in the dirt.
How it started
Arizona Highway Patrol noticed Skeen making unsafe lane usage back at Arizona mile marker 2. Bottoms said that the officer thought maybe he was impaired or drowsy, that the Highway Patrol has a 24-hour incidence of impaired driving and drowsy driving incidents in this area because of people coming out of the casinos in Mesquite, Nev., which operate around the clock.
The AHP officer came up behind Skeen in the emergency lane and when he turned his emergency lights on, Skeen took flight, reaching speeds up to 120 mph through Arizona until reaching Utah where Utah Highway Patrol spiked at least one of his tires, he then crossed the median into the collision and then his own rollover.
“We still really don’t know why he ran, he kind of indicated he had a suspended driving privilege somewhere,” Bottoms said, “we’re not buying off on that yet, most people don’t take off for that … all we would’ve done is issue him a ticket and let him go on his way .”
Suspect driver’s condition
Skeen is in the intensive care unit at Uniersity Medical Center in Las Vegas, Nev. Bottoms said he is undergoing CT scans, he is not in surgery, and is expected to make a full recovery.
Skeen is under guard of a Las Vegas Metro officer at Las Vegas UMC to insure that if he is released by the hospital he does not just walk away, Bottoms said.
Arizona and Utah Highway Patrols will coordinate with each other to determine which will be the primary charging agency.
Bottoms said that charges between the two agencies will likely include unlawful flight, maybe aggravated assault if they can prove that he went through the median with intent to go head on into another car, endangerment .
“It’s hard to charge someone without knowing why they ran,” Bottoms said, noting that there was a lot of debris at the scene which will be evaluated. If they can tie it to the vehicle or the individual it may figure into charges to be made.
The investigation is ongoing.
UPDATE Feb. 10, 2013, noon: The couple hit by Skeen are OK. Bottoms said that they complained of some chest and back pain from impact of the seatbelts catching them in their car.
Skeen suffered some fractures to his ribs and to his pubic bone, Bottoms said. He has not admitted anything.
UHP will seek extradition tomorrow morning. Because the most serious crime he will be charged with, aggravated assault, was committed in Utah, Bottoms said Skeen will first be prosecuted in Utah and at the conclusion of Utah’s process, he will be picked up and extradited to Arizona for crimes committed in Arizona in this incident.
Ed. Note: Persons arrested are presumed innocent until found guilty in a court of law or as otherwise decided by a trier-of-fact.
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