A runaway, a chase and a crash
PARKSTON -- Two runaway teens from an at-risk youth facility in Parkston were injured in a crash Tuesday night after they led authorities on a high-speed chase near Ethan.
According to South Dakota Highway Patrol Sgt. Robert Mayer, the incident began shortly after 10:30 p.m. when a fire alarm was pulled at Our Home Inc., a facility for troubled youth in Parkston.
"They pulled the fire alarm in the building to distract the staff," said Steve Gubbrud, executive director of Our Home, "then bolted out of there."
Our Home staff immediately notified law enforcement of the two runaways, Gubbrud said.
According to Davison County Sheriff Steve Brink, the two girls stole a car in Parkston, but were quickly located by Davison County Sheriff's Deputy Tim Reitzel on Highway 37 near Ethan. Reitzel attempted a traffic stop, but the driver of the vehicle fled and continued north on Highway 37.
Reitzel, with his patrol car's emergency lights activated, followed from more than half a mile behind the vehicle as it turned east onto 264th Street, Brink said.
"(Reitzel) really didn't have time to do much but react and it was over," Brink said.
At approximately 11 p.m., Mayer said, about two miles east of Highway 37 near the intersection of 264th Street and 412th Avenue, the vehicle left the gravel roadway and rolled before coming to rest in a field south of 264th Street.
Neither of the girls was wearing a seat belt and both were ejected from the vehicle in the crash, and later transported by ambulance to Avera Queen of Peace Hospital in Mitchell, Mayer said. Both girls were conscious when they were transported to the hospital, Mayer added.
The suspects' vehicle approached speeds of 90 mph during the incident, which lasted only about a minute, Brink said, and Reitzel's speed never exceeded 80 mph.
Reitzel likely would have called off the pursuit for safety reasons had it not ended so abruptly, Brink said.
According to Gubbrud, one of the girls suffered a broken pelvis, punctured lung and crushed vertebrae in the crash, while the other suffered less serious injuries. Both girls remained hospitalized as of Monday morning, Gubbrud said.
Brink said the driver involved in the incident is 17 and the passenger is 15. Authorities declined to release the names of the girls because of their age.
There are possible charges pending against the girls for the stolen vehicle and the pursuit, Mayer said.
According to Gubbrud, one of the girls was placed in Our Home by the Department of Corrections and the other was placed by the Department of Social Services.
"They're troubled little girls," he said. "They have lots of problems."
Gubbrud expressed his disappointment with the girls involved in the incident.
"It's just a bad deal all the way around, but it happens," Gubbrud said. "While we don't like it and we do our best to prevent it, sometimes things like this happen."
Our Home's facility in Parkston is home to 36 juveniles, including the two girls involved in the chase, and has a staff of about 40 people, Gubbrud said.
After the incident, more than 10 emergency vehicles lined 264th Street and lit up the dark rural area as responders worked for several hours to clear debris from the site of the crash.
"It was a very violent accident," Brink said.
The Davison County Sheriff's Office, Hutchinson County Sheriff's Office, Hanson County Sheriff's Office, Highway Patrol, Ethan Fire Department and Mitchell Ambulance responded to the incident.