High-Speed Chase Ends in River Bottoms, Waterlogged Burglary Suspect Arrested

A chase across state lines ends with a car under water, two Sheriff’s deputies in the hospital, and a burglary suspect in custody.

Henderson County Sheriff's Deputies say James Michael Smith led them on a high-speed chase from Henderson towards Evansville, reaching speeds up to 100 miles per hour.

Authorities say the chase started with a burglary investigation, after a realtor noticed a car was missing from a garage at Henderson home on U.S. 60 East.

Deputies spotted the allegedly stolen Chevy Tahoe and tried to stop it, when Smith took off, heading to Henderson back roads.

Chief Deputy David Crafton says Smith allegedly wrecked a cruiser near Audubon Park, and sent two deputies to the hospital. Their condition is unknown but Crafton did not indicate the injuries were serious.

Deputies used a spike strip to slow Smith down, and punctured at least one tire, but authorities say he was only getting started. Smith allegedly sped across the Ohio River bridge and circled back under near Ellis Park, where he crashed into a body of water.

“I don't know if he lost control or if he did this intentionally,” Crafton said of the accident.

Smith was still in the vehicle as it submerged. Crafton says as water filled the car, Smith came out of the sunroof.

“He was suicidal,” Crafton says, “He was telling us he was going to kill himself if we didn't shoot him.”

It was only a few minutes in the chilly water before Smith swam to shore where he was greeted with handcuffs. Crafton says he was taken to the hospital to be checked.

Smith was booked into Henderson County jail Monday night, facing a list of charges including burglary, fleeing and evading, and assault on an officer.

He's due in court on Wednesday.

Back at the scene under the Twin Bridges, it was the rescue diver's turn to pull out the wreckage. With authorities from Henderson, Evansville, Kentucky, and Indiana watching, a few firefighters went to work.

Henderson Assistant Chief Chad Moore says the temperature plays a role in how divers enter the water. “It is really cold right now so that takes a lot out of a diver,” he says.

Moore got wet, trying to help the wrecker get attached to the car, because the axel was buried in the mud. “I took instruction from the guy driving the wrecker,” Moore joked.

It took divers more than an hour to hook up and hoist the car from the murky water onto pavement again. Many emergency responders and tow truck workers were snapping pictures as the Tahoe drained its load of water.

Easy to laugh at now, but the whole situation from the chase to the rescue, is serious. “These things are inherently dangerous no matter how well you try to handle them,” says Crafton.

Just another day on the job. With a muddy truck in mid-air.



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