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Copyright 2005 Madison Newspapers, Inc.

The Capital Times (Madison, Wisconsin)

August 3, 2005 Wednesday
FIRST EDITION

METRO; Pg. 2C

436 words

DRIVER CHARGED IN HIGH-SPEED CHASE;
COP DRAGGED SUSPECT FROM FLAMING WRECK

By Mike Miller The Capital Times

A Boscobel man with numerous convictions for traffic offenses in several Wisconsin counties including at least two for fleeing police reportedly led officers on a high-speed chase from Dane County to Jefferson County on Saturday.

It ended with his car catching fire in a field near Johnson Creek and a state trooper pulling him from the burning wreck.

Joseph L. Blaha, 27, was charged Tuesday in Dane County with fleeing an officer, recklessly endangering safety, second-offense drunken driving, and operating after revocation of his license.

Blaha has been previously convicted of traffic offenses or petty crimes in several counties in Wisconsin including Dane, Jefferson, Grant, Crawford and Vernon counties with convictions in Jefferson and Vernon counties for eluding officers, court records show.

Saturday's chase, according to the criminal complaint, started when State Trooper Mike Vasquez ran a routine check of the registration of a car on I-94 and found that while the plate was registered to a 1989 Ford truck, it was being used on a 1993 Chevrolet car.

According to the complaint:

He pulled the car over and walked up to the driver's door. The driver, Vasquez later wrote in a report, stomped on the gas and sped away eastbound, nearly running over the trooper's foot.

As Blaha sped down the road at speeds as high as 120 mph he was weaving in and out of traffic, forcing several drivers to get out of his way, the complaint says. At mile post 264 other state patrol officers put down road spikes which Blaha ran over, the complaint says, and he began to have trouble controlling his car as his tires went flat.

Cars continued to have to get out of his way and at one point as he was passing a car on the left shoulder the driver moved to the right and almost hit a semi truck, the complaint says.

At the intersection with Highway 26 Blaha turned off the Interstate -- by now he was driving on two rims which were throwing up sparks -- and ran a stop light. He then turned east onto County Highway B and continued to swerve into oncoming traffic, and at one point almost had a head-on crash, the complaint says.

He finally lost control and slid into a field, with his car spinning around and facing west when it stopped. But Blaha, the complaint says, continued to race the engine and the car overheated and started on fire near the gas tank.

As Trooper Vasquez approached the car, Blaha sat gripping the wheel with his eyes closed and refused orders to get out of the car, despite the fire. Vasquez was able to pull him out just before flames fully engulfed the vehicle, the complaint says.

E-mail: [email protected]

The story appeared in the second edition on page 1C. The headline was: Driver is charged in high-speed chase/ Cop pulls suspect from burning car.

August 4, 2005
 
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