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Freeway Chase Ends When Car Catches on Fire

November 21, 1998

LANCASTER — The driver of a car that was reported stolen led police on a 115-mile chase Friday that ended when sparks from two bare wheel rims set the car on fire, forcing the driver out of the smoke-filled vehicle.

The unidentified driver was arrested about 9:15 a.m. on suspicion of possessing a stolen vehicle, felony reckless driving and evading police, said Officer Bob Granieri of the California Highway Patrol.

The televised chase began about 7:30 a.m. when Fontana police ran a check on the vehicle and found that it had been reported stolen Nov. 7 from its Moreno Valley owner, Granieri said.

CHP officers pursued the car from San Bernardino County west on Interstate 10 and north on Interstates 210 and 5 to the Antelope Valley Freeway. Officers set out a spike strip that blew out two of the car's tires.

A passenger jumped from the moving vehicle onto the freeway and was swarmed by police officers. Granieri said it was unknown if the passenger was a willing participant in the pursuit.

The driver continued for 15 more miles, shredding the remains of the flat front tires and traveling up to 40 mph on the rims, Granieri said. Sparks underneath the car could be seen on television before smoke filled the small car.

"The undercarriage started burning from the sparks around, and I think the suspect couldn't handle the heat," he said. "Then he pulled to the shoulder and surrendered."

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