by Amanda Schultz and Cynthya Porter
Law enforcement officials and the community are struggling to come to grips with a horrific accident that claimed the life of a Winona teen early Tuesday, leaving little but a mangled car and a host of questions in its wake.
Winona Police Department officers were dispatched following a report of a stolen vehicle at 12:05 a.m on Monday, August 18. The caller noticed that two shadowy figures were entering his car parked at his residence on the east side of Winona and he called 911.
According to statements made by Chief Deputy Andrea Essar and Police Chief Frank Pomeroy, officers spotted the vehicle within minutes and pursued, but lost contact with the vehicle as the driver accelerated through the streets.
A second patrol officer spotted the car in the vicinity of Lake Street heading west shortly afterward and picked up the chase.
The driver, according to Pomeroy, was speeding in excess of 80 mph and driving erratically. The officer, he said, was at least six blocks behind the vehicle, partly to keep a safe distance behind the car, and partly to slow up or stop for intersections along the way.
At the corner where Lake Street turns into the Winona Senior High School parking lot is where the incident turned tragic.
According to Pomeroy, from six blocks behind the officers said they saw a "puff of smoke" when the car missed the turn.
Authorities estimate the vehicle was traveling in excess of 80 mph when it veered off the road and struck wooden posts and at least two trees on the back side of the high school, coming to rest only a few feet from the back wall of the building.
On the scene only seconds afterward, the officer observed a "young person exiting the passenger side of the vehicle," Pomeroy said. That person, a 14-year-old male from Winona, was apprehended immediately by the officer.
In the wreckage of the car, officers discovered the apparent driver of the vehicle, 15-year-old Adam Doblar of Winona, who was pronounced dead at the scene.
The passenger was treated and released from Community Memorial Hospital.
"I believe that the officers were following our policies and procedures," said Winona Police Chief Frank Pomeroy, by taking special care to not endanger the public during the pursuit.
According to Pomeroy, the officers had no knowledge of the ages of the occupants of the vehicle and were using their lights and sirens during the pursuit.
"When you take that area at 80 mph, very bad things are going to happen," said Pomeroy.
He expressed his concern over movies that glamorize reckless speeding to youth, citing other examples where youth appeared to be mimicking movies like "The Fast and the Furious."
"I don't know what's going on, obviously young people are more prone to want to speed lately," he said of a recent rash of incidents nationwide.
Pomeroy said it would be up to the County Attorney's office whether the surviving juvenile would face charges.
The Minnesota State Patrol is conducting an accident reconstruction, as well as participating in the ongoing investigation of the events leading up to the crash.