110 W. New York Ave.
DeLand, FL 32720
Driver involved in fatal DeLand crash was fleeing police
Friends mourn death of Dave Johnson
By Pat Hatfield
posted Dec 16, 2009 - 12:52:36pm
UPDATED FRIDAY, DEC. 18: DeLand Police said a man involved in a fatal crash on State Road 44 Dec. 12 was fleeing police in a stolen truck at the time, and had tried to run over a DeLand police officer who stopped the truck a short time earlier.
The crash killed 40-year-old Dave Johnson of DeLand, when Johnson's SUV collided with the stolen truck east of DeLand. Friends and family gathered Dec. 18 in Chess Park in Downtown DeLand, to mourn the loss of Johnson, father of two and a master Web programmer.
Police arrested 19-year-old John Yovaish of New Smyrna Beach, charging him with aggravated battery on a law-enforcement officer, fleeing and attempting to elude police, grand theft, and driving with a suspended driver's license.
Yovaish remained in the Volusia County Branch Jail at press time.
The Florida Highway Patrol (FHP) said additional charges are pending the outcome of a traffic homicide investigation.
The Highway Patrol reported that, just before midnight Dec. 12, Yovaish was eastbound in the westbound lane of S.R. 44 just west of County Road 4139. He was driving a stolen white Ford F550 flatbed pickup with the name "Advanced Pavers" on its side, the FHP said.
Johnson was driving a 1998 Nissan SUV westbound, in the westbound lane.
Both vehicles entered the curve on S.R. 44, and both drivers tried to swerve to avoid a head-on crash; however, both swerved in the same direction, the FHP said.
According to the report, Yovaish's truck sideswiped Johnson's Nissan, and spun it. Johnson was dead at the scene; his body was taken to the Medical Examiner's Office.
FHP released no further details.
On Dec. 16, FHP spokeswoman Trooper Kim Miller said, "The crash remains under investigation, and charges are still pending against Yovaish."
The story began several hours earlier, in New Smyrna Beach, where, according to law-enforcement reports, a young man abandoned his bicycle in favor of a truck he stole from his former employer.
Events leading to the crash
Here's what happened Saturday, Dec. 12, according to reports from the DeLand Police Department and the Volusia County Sheriff's Office:
At 10:02 p.m.
The Sheriff's Office received a report of truck stolen from Advanced Pavers' locked compound in New Smryna Beach. A witness spotted the 2008 Ford F550 flatbed being driven westbound on State Road 44 from Old Mission Road in New Smyrna. The witness called the owner of the company and reported seeing what looked like ex-employee John D. Yovaish behind the wheel.
Yovaish would have know how to enter the compound and get the truck and its keys, company owner Bernie Murtaugh told deputies. A bicycle believed to be Yovaish's mother's was found at the scene. His parents told Murtaugh that Yovaish left the house a couple of hours earlier on the bicycle.
Deputies were unable to locate the truck; they issued a be-on-the-lookout (BOLO) bulletin.
At 11:30 p.m.
DeLand Police Sgt. Michael Quinn and other DeLand officers were at the corner of Woodland Boulevard and Beresford Avenue on unrelated business, when they saw a truck matching the description of the white Ford that had been reported stolen. The truck was headed east on Beresford.
At 11:34 p.m.
Sheriffi's Office Investigator David McNamara was driving on Kepler Road, headed northbound toward S.R. 44, when he heard the DeLand Police call dispatch about seeing the stolen truck. McNamara turned west onto S.R. 44, also looking for the truck. He continued to monitor the DeLand officers' radio calls.
In the meantime, DeLand Sgt. Michael Quinn followed the truck down Beresford, north onto Amelia Avenue, then east on New York Avenue. He then spotted the vehicle on South Boston Avenue, where it had turned off New York.
Quinn turned around and turned on his patrol car's flashing lights. The truck turned back onto New York Avenue and stopped.
Quinn got out of his vehicle, pointed his flashlight at the suspect in the truck and yelled for the man to show his hands.
As Quinn waited for backup to arrive, the man drove the truck toward the officer, where Quinn stood next to his patrol vehicle, the report states. Quinn yelled for the suspect to stop, but he "accelerated at a high rate of speed towards me ... in attempt to run me over."
The truck's passenger side mirror struck Quinn on the arm, causing a minor injury, and the truck continued east on S.R. 44.
Sheriff's Investigator McNamara, who had headed west on Voorhis Avenue toward Hill Avenue, looking for the truck, heard Quinn call in the stop. McNamara turned back toward S.R. 44 with his emergency lights activated. He looked for the truck at Hill and S.R. 44, but did not see it.
Quinn and other officers followed the truck's path, but not at high speed, the DeLand Police said.
DeLand Police Officer J. Miller put out stop sticks at the intersection of New York (S.R. 44) and Blue Lake avenues. The Volusia County Sheriff's Office Air-One helicopter joined in the search.
Miller announced on the radio the stolen truck had hit the stop sticks and continued eastbound on S.R. 44. McNamara turned eastbound onto S.R. 44 to assist.
McNamara and Quinn heard a radio call from another deputy that the truck was speeding through the intersection of Kepler Road at a high rate of speed and with its headlights off. Another officer reported on the radio that the truck had lost a wheel.
McNamara continued east on S.R. 44, believing he was about a mile behind Quinn and the stolen truck.
McNamara then spotted a vehicle on the north side of the roadway, in the dark – "pitch black." It was Johnson's SUV. McNamara didn't see the vehicle until he was passing it. The vehicle showed damage from being in an accident, and there was a large amount of debris on the road, he reported.
Then, McNamara spotted the stolen truck on the south shoulder of the road, with no lights on.
McNamara drove past that vehicle for safety, then stopped and got out, looking for Quinn's police cruiser, which he thought had been ahead of him.
Meanwhile, Quinn was just coming around the curve near County Road 4139. He had thought he'd spotted the stolen truck turn left into the convenience store at Kepler Road and S.R. 44, and got into the turn lane. When he realized the vehicle he saw was not the stolen truck, he pulled back onto S.R. 44, but other traffic was between him and McNamara's vehicle.
Quinn then came upon the accident scene, where "a large debris field" was scattered over the roadway.
Quinn and McNamara approached the stolen truck. They ordered the suspect out of the truck, but he told them he could not get out. The truck doors were jammed and its windows shut.
Quinn broke a window and pulled the suspect out.
At 11:48 p.m.
Florida Highway Patrol got the call about the accident.
Medical personnel arrived on the scene.
FHP took charge of the crash scene.
The Volusia County Sheriff's Office Air-One helicopter flew Yovaish to Halifax Health Medical Center in Daytona Beach, where he was checked over, then arrested. Johnson was pronounced dead at the scene.
Johnson is survived by two daughters, Jessica, 16, and Lacey, 12, both of DeLand; his parents, Mary Browder of Lexington, S.C., and Wayne R. Johnson of Lake Okeechobee; his brother, William J. Fugo, his sister-in-law Trendalyn, and nephew Anthony and niece Theresa.
Lankford Funeral Home is in charge of arrangements.
No high-speed pursuit
DeLand Police spokesman Sgt. John Anderson said the fatal crash was not preceded by a high-speed chase.
"The officers did what they could" to stop the defendant without chasing him at high speeds, Anderson said.
In the case of a "forcible felony," as this was, due to the attempt to run over Officer Quinn, DeLand Police are allowed by policy to engage in high-speed pursuit. It's the supervisor's call.
In this case, the decision was to not use high speeds, Anderson emphasized.
Most jurisdictions ban or limit high-speed pursuits, citing danger to other drivers on the road.
Stop sticks are used as an alternative to high-speed pursuits. A police officer throws the stop sticks on the road in the path of the oncoming vehicle. The stop sticks damage the vehicle's tires, causing them to deflate slowly — not explosively — gradually disabling the vehicle.
The comments posted below are posted by readers, not by The Beacon staff. These comments express the views and opinions of the authors, and not the administrators, moderators or webmaster. The comments forum is governed by these rules. Please use the report abuse link if you find offensive comments.
Did you find this story interesting or informative? Subscribe to The West Volusia Beacon to read more stories by Pat Hatfield, along with others from our award-winning writers. Subscribe now!