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Suspected DUI driver fleeing CHP kills 1

April 23, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
An innocent driver is dead after a woman crashed into another car, despite efforts by the CHP to stop her.The accident happened Friday afternoon near Phelan on State Route 138 near State Route 2, about two miles west of Interstate 15.

Highway 138 was closed for several hours and was expected to remain shut down into Friday evening.

A possible DUI driver was swerving all over the road earlier Friday. The female driver missed several cars before hitting a Chevrolet Camaro head-on, killing the 46-year-old male driver.

The incident started at about 1:30 p.m. Friday, when a CHP officer noticed the driver of a gray Toyota Corolla was driving erratically on the wrong side of the road on the 138. The officer proceeded to pursue the driver to pull her over. The driver did not respond and continued swerving on the road with speeds varying between 30 and 80 miles per hour for several miles. After missing multiple vehicles, the driver crashed into the Camaro, killing its driver.

The suspected drunk driver suffered serious injuries and was airlifted to Arrowhead Regional Medical Center. She will be charged with vehicular manslaughter, failure to yield, and possibly driving under the influence.

"It's a choice that someone makes," said CHP Officer Daniel Hesser. "An innocent person lost their life today, and that's why we're always out there trying to educate people. Unfortunately, you can be driving perfectly fine and you're put at risk by somebody else's bad choices."

The deceased driver's name has been withheld pending notification of family. He has only been identified as a 46-year-old Santa Ana man.

The suspect is 45-year-old Zimmie-Lynn Bernaff from Phelan.

Hesser described the CHP officer's actions in the incident.

"[The pursuing officer] is doing his best to try and be visible to the oncoming cars, hoping that they'll move out of the way," said Hesser. "When she accelerated rapidly away from him, he could sense that something was coming. He was trying to keep a safe distance but also stay with the vehicle. He attempted medical aid but it was pretty obvious the driver of the Camaro was unfortunately killed on impact. The driver of the Corolla, the suspect, she had to be extricated by the fire department."

The suspect sustained major injuries and was undergoing surgery Friday evening.


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