OVETT, Miss. (AP) — Three people died early Wednesday after a police chase in Mississippi that started when an SUV crossed the road's center line and forced a deputy's car onto the shoulder, officials said.
Jones County Sheriff's Department spokeswoman Allyson Knotts said the three died after 2 a.m. Wednesday when a tire blew out on a Mitsubishi Montero and the driver lost control, running off the road and hitting trees.
Jones County Coroner Nancy Barnett said Kayla Lovett, 20, of Laurel; Josh Lovett, 33, of Laurel; and Rustin Sims, 23, of Ovett died before they could be taken to a hospital. Pictures provided by the sheriff's department showed the vehicle was extensively mangled in the crash.
The Jones County Fire Council told WDAM-TV that firefighters needed several hours to remove the bodies from the SUV. Firefighters said they believed one of the three occupants was still alive when they began cutting the vehicle open.
The Mississippi Highway Patrol is investigating the crash. Warren Strain, a spokesman, didn't return calls seeking comment Wednesday.
Knotts couldn't say how fast vehicles drove during the chase. It began on Laurel's eastern edge when a deputy saw an SUV with one headlight cross the center line of the road, forcing the deputy onto the shoulder. The deputy turned around and tried to stop the SUV, but the driver fled, eventually turning onto Mississippi 15 and driving south about 17 miles before the blowout.
Knotts said the Montero's driver didn't pull over for deputies and ran stop signs. She couldn't immediately comment on whether the Jones County Sheriff's Department has a policy on when it's appropriate for deputies to chase a motorist. She said the deputies involved remained on duty.
"It was not a dangerous situation," Knotts said, saying few other people were on the road in the middle of the night.