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Driver and passenger rescued from burning vehicle following discontinued DUI pursuit

BELLINGHAM, Wash. — A Washington State Patrol (WSP) trooper observed a vehicle southbound on I-5 in the area of W Bakerview Road about 11:15pm on Tuesday, July 19th, at speeds of 80 to 100mph struggling to stay in its lane.

WSP Trooper Jacob Kennett told Whatcom News the trooper attempted to stop the vehicle by activating his emergency lights and siren, but the vehicle failed to yield.

The trooper requested permission to pursue based on having probable cause to arrest the driver for driving under the influence. The trooper deactivated his vehicle’s lights and siren and reduced his speed while awaiting permission to pursue.

Permission was granted to the trooper to resume the pursuit. The trooper located the suspect vehicle still southbound south of the Old Fairhaven Parkway interchange and reactivated his lights and siren.

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The suspect vehicle continued to disregard the trooper’s attempt to get it to yield and exited at the N Lake Samish interchange.

The trooper discontinued the pursuit since they were no longer on the interstate. The suspect vehicle was seen continuing southbound on Lake Samish Drive.

The trooper came around a curve to find the suspect vehicle had crashed into a tree and appeared to be catching fire. The trooper requested fire and aid respond.

With the assistance of a second trooper, the driver and an injured passenger were extricated from the vehicle after breaking the windows since the doors would not open.

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Troopers learned the passenger had asked to be let out of the vehicle and the driver refused. The passenger appeared to have suffered multiple broken bones.

Both the driver and the passenger were transported to PeaceHealth St Joseph Medical Center. It was determined the driver was uninjured.

The driver, identified as Esteven Raynaldo Delafuente, age 26, was arrested and booked into Whatcom County Jail about 4am today, July 20th, charged with suspicion of the following crimes.

  • attempting to elude a police vehicle
  • reckless driving
  • driving under the influence
  • vehicular assault
  • unlawful imprisonment

At the time of his arrest, Delafuente was awaiting trial in Skagit County Superior Court where he is charged with 2nd degree organized retail theft, 2nd degree burglary, 2nd degree malicious mischief.

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Delafuente has prior felony convictions in Skagit County Superior Court including attempting to elude a police vehicle, driving under the influence and 2nd degree possession of stolen property.

As of 9am, Delafuente remained in custody without bail awaiting a preliminary court appearance.

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