A high-speed police pursuit on State Route 5 ended in a fatal collision near Paratore Road in the town Schuyler on Thursday.
State police reported a 2003 Kia driven by Daniel E. Conklin, 23, of Rochester, was pursued by Herkimer police. The pursuit, state police said, started after an incident on German Street in the village of Herkimer. Police said the pursuit began when Conklin sped through a school zone and then failed to stop when Herkimer police tried to pull his vehicle over.
Conklin’s vehicle collided into the driver’s side of a Toyota SUV driven by Gail L. Pietruska, of Frankfort, at around 11 a.m., state police said. The Kia ended in the westbound lane, facing west, just past Paratore Road. The SUV ended on the south shoulder of the road, with the driver side facing down.
Conklin suffered major leg injuries and was flown by LifeNet to Upstate Medical Center in Syracuse, state police said. Pietruska, 65, was also taken to Upstate Medical Center for internal injuries, state police said. The passenger in Pietruska’s vehicle was her sister, Louise Medallis, 54. State police said Medallis suffered back pain and was taken to St. Elizabeth Medical Center in Utica for treatment.
Thursday night, state police reported Pietruska had died from her injuries.
Police also said Thursday night Conklin was being held on a violation of a parole warrant.
“State police weren’t involved with the chase. I was on my way to assist in the pursuit. It crashed before we got there,” said Trooper Jason Nellis during a telephone interview Thursday evening.
Nellis said he was among the first troopers to arrive at the scene and said both vehicles were in “bad condition.” “The station wagon was crumbled,” he said.
Several state police, ambulances, village police and fire department vehicles converged onto the scene after the accident was reported Thursday morning. Shortly after the accident occurred, a police officer could be seen standing on top of the SUV holding the doors open to help extricate a woman from the vehicle, who needed her seat belt cut to be removed.
Nellis said he was involved with helping the two women out of the SUV.
“It felt like an eternity,” he said.
The chase began when a Herkimer police officer witnessed Conklin commit a traffic infraction on German Street, Herkimer County Assistant District Attorney Jeffrey Carpenter said.
Once a woman passenger was seen exiting the vehicle, the pursuit intensified as it stretched about six miles along State Route 5 from Herkimer to Schuyler, Carpenter said. Along the way, vehicles from other police agencies had either joined the pursuit or were heading in that direction, he said.
The woman was identified by police as Rebecca Mento, a front-seat passenger in Conklin’s vehicle who was forced out of the vehicle. Mento was treated for injuries at St. Elizabeth Medical Center.
Page 2 of 2 - Carpenter declined to discuss why Conklin might have been prompted to initially flee from law enforcement. “I have that information, but I cannot comment on that at this point in time,” he said.
The roadway was reopened shortly after 3:30 p.m.
As the investigation unfolds, Carpenter said he anticipates his questions about what happened will be answered. “I want to find out all of the details regarding the traffic infraction, the stop and the chase,” he said Thursday afternoon. “All preliminary indications at this point are that the police were acting appropriately given the information they had at the time.”
Road closures were reported for Route 5, from Windfall to Millers Grove roads.
Emergency response agencies redirected traffic, including westbound traffic on Route 5 that was redirected to go over the Frankfort Bridge, on Railroad Street in Frankfort.
Several agencies responded including the Schuyler, Frankfort and Mohawk fire departments, Herkimer, village of Frankfort, town of Frankfort and Ilion police departments and MOVAC.
State police said charges are pending.
Contributing: GateHouse News Service