GREENSBORO, N.C. -- A 22-year-old woman is dead and another person is in critical condition after a police pursuit ended in a wrong-way head-on collision in the eastbound lanes of I-40 near Wendover Avenue on Thursday night.
Police said an SUV was traveling west in the eastbound lanes of I-40 at speeds of 80-90 miles per hour around 10:30 p.m. when it collided with a Volvo convertible between Wendover Avenue and Patterson Street.
Police said the driver of the Volvo convertible, Reagan Lee Hartley, 22, of Willow Spring, died as a result of injuries sustained in the crash.
She was pronounced dead on the way to the hospital.
The suspect, Ronnie Fichera, 46, of South Boston, Va., was transported to a local hospital and is listed in critical condition as of 12:30 a.m., police said.
"It's a tragedy, there's no way around that," Lt. C.M. Shultheis said. "I don't know what goes through a driver's mind when they are trying to elude police. I don't know what the level of impairment was, the driver may not have realized he was going the wrong way."
Police said Fichera entered Greensboro on I-40, exited the interstate at the High Point Road exit leading officers around Four Seasons Mall and reentered the interstate again driving west in the eastbound lanes.
He struck the convertible about a mile down the highway.
Greensboro police were not involved in the pursuit but are investigating the crash.
Timeline of events
Officials said the incident started at 10:06 p.m. in Asheboro when 911 telecommunications received a call from an employee at the Subway at 350 N. Fayetteville St. The employee said a customer damaged a Subway display sign and "felt uncomfortable" with his demeanor.
Asheboro officers were dispatched and responded to the scene. When they arrived, the employee told police the man left the store and was sitting inside a vehicle in the parking lot. Officers approached the vehicle, a green SUV displaying a Virginia registration plate, and spoke to the driver.
Master Police Officer M.C. Fulk said it was apparent the driver was impaired and said there was an open container of alcohol in the vehicle. Officer Fulk asked the man to turn off the vehicle and step out. The suspect refused, placed the vehicle in drive, turned the wheel sharply and sped off, nearly striking Officer Fulk.
Officers initiated a pursuit and pursued the suspect north on N. Fayetteville St.
Asheboro officers continued the pursuit north through the city. The driver reached speeds of 80 mph in a 35-mph zone and "crossed the center line on several occasions," police said.
Upon entering Randleman, officers on U.S. 220 Business contacted Randolph County telecommunications to ask for assistance from the Randleman Police Department.
As officers approached Highway 311, Randleman officers joined the pursuit and Asheboro Police Department's second officer was called off by the on-duty officer. A short time later, a second Randleman officer joined the pursuit and Officer Fulk discountinued his pursuit.
When asked about the incident that occurred this morning, Lt. Colonel Jody Williams with the Asheboro Police Department said, “this was truly a tragic incident and our thoughts go out to all the families involved.”
The Randleman Police Department then took over the pursuit.
Guilford County Metro Communications was contacted by the Randolph County Communications Center requesting assistance with the pursuit. They advised Randleman officers were pursuing a green Ford Expedition travelling north in the southbound lane of Business 220 (Randleman Road) at speeds in excess of 90 mph.
Guilford County DWI Task Force Officers briefly became involved in the chase near I-40 and Randleman Road, but disengaged when the driver entered eastbound I-40 travelling westbound.
As the vehicle exited I-40 onto Four Seasons Boulevard, Task Force Officers re-initiated the pursuit. The vehicle once again entered eastbound I-40 travelling westbound. Task Force Officers did not continue pursuing the vehicle by travelling west into eastbound traffic, but did request officers in the area to attempt to divert traffic approaching from the west travelling on I-40.
Prior to the traffic being diverted, the Expedition collided with a Volvo being driven eastbound.
The timeline comes from the Asheboro Police Department and the Guilford County Sheriff's Office. The Randleman Police Department has not issued an official press release as of 4 p.m.