Police chase ends in fatal crash
UPDATED: Nov. 14, 2017 at 5:15 p.m.
An early morning car crash in Nassauville on Saturday killed a man being chased by Fernandina Beach police. The man was allegedly involved in an earlier hit-and-run accident that occurred at the Fernandina Beach Golf Course, according to Fernandina Beach Police Chief James Hurley, who characterized that accident as “serious.”
The driver of the vehicle being pursued, Gary M. Denmark, 40, of Fernandina Beach, was not wearing a seatbelt, according to a report from the Florida Highway Patrol.
A passenger, Dwight E. Hooper of Fernandina Beach, was taken to the hospital with minor injuries.
According to the FHP report, the fatal crash happened at 12:12 a.m. Saturday morning near the intersection of Wilder Boulevard and Ellis Landing Road.
“The pursuit was not being conducted recklessly,” Hurley said Saturday, adding that the officer made the decision to continue the chase off of the island because Nassau County Sheriff’s Office deputies in the area were known to be occupied with another incident. “We didn’t expect the county to be in position,” said Hurley.
The 2005 Chevrolet Silverado truck Denmark drove “was traveling eastbound on Wilder Boulevard ... being pursued by an officer with the Fernandina Beach Police Department for being involved in a previous hit and run crash.” Denmark “lost control, running off of the roadway onto the left shoulder.” As Denmark attempted to regain control, the truck ran off of the other side of the road, struck a culvert and overturned, ending up on its roof, according to the FHP report.
Denmark was pronounced dead at the scene.
Hurley said the officer chasing Denmark did not witness the moment of the crash. “He was not pursuing that closely; he was not pushing him,” said Hurley, who estimated the officer’s speed during the chase at 70 mph.
The officer’s vehicle’s dash camera video was expected to be available for release this week.