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Chase ends in fatality
A 23-year-old Pierce County man died in a four-car accident Aug.
10 after leading several police agencies on a chase along Highway 18.
The man was being pursued because he allegedly stole a car.
David T. Roehr of Graham was pronounced dead at the
accident scene, located near the Raging River Bridge on Highway 18. Another
man, Gary M. Nelson, 37, an off-duty Seattle police sergeant who lives in
Auburn, sustained head and chest injuries in the accident and was
airlifted to Harborview Medical Center where he underwent surgery. As the
Valley Record went to press, Nelson was listed in serious but stable
condition, a hospital spokesperson said.
According to police, Roehr had stolen a 1993 Honda Civic earlier
that day in Puyallup. At about 3:45 p.m., Auburn police contacted the
King County Sheriff's Department and notified the agency they were chasing
Sheriff deputies took over the chase in the Maple Valley area.
Sgt. Jerrell Wills of the sheriff's department said that as Roehr made his
way east along Highway 18, a deputy attempted to put spike strips across
the road, but it failed in slowing the car down.
"Basically (Roehr) just got past them," Wills said.
As the chase continued, the Civic reached speeds up to 80 mph.
Wills said Roehr was driving dangerously and "passing on the shoulder and
into oncoming traffic."
Just as sheriff's deputies were ready to let a helicopter take up
the chase, Roehr tried to pass a tractor-trailer and collided violently
with Nelson's 1992 Ford pickup, which was traveling west. Roehr was
not wearing a seatbelt; Nelson was.
"We were in the process of backing off because our helicopter
was getting in place," Wills said.
According to the Washington State Patrol, after the Civic struck
Nelson's truck, it collided with another tractor-trailer heading west. Nelson's
truck then hit the first tractor-trailer. The Civic came to a stop in the
westbound lane of Highway 18, literally shredded by the impact. Nelson's Ford
came to rest in the eastbound lane.
The two drivers of the tractor-trailers, Albert L. Gaviglio, Federal
Way, and Don G. Sattler, Graham, were not injured.
The accident shut down Highway 18 for several hours. Traffic
attempting to exit off of Interstate 90 onto the highway was rerouted back to the