The Washington State Patrol is investigating the high-speed pursuit of a motorcyclist that ended in the rider’s death six miles up Deer Park Road on May 8.
A Washington State Patrol trooper attempted to pull a motorcyclist over on U.S. Highway 101 just before 8 p.m. after observing him speeding, troopers said.
Bjorn Robert Larsen, 35, of Port Angeles, fled up Deer Park Road and died after he failed to navigate a left-hand turn on a narrow, winding stretch of road, plummeting 50 feet down a ravine.
The trooper pursuing Larsen, 37-year-old Travis Beebe, also crashed in the ravine and had to break the back window of his patrol car to escape the wreckage. Beebe suffered minor injuries and took a few days off to recover, Trooper Russ Winger said.
Winger said Beebe, of Port Angeles, was in pursuit of Larsen when the two vehicles came to a sharp corner six miles up Deer Park Road and drove off the edge of the road, crashing to the bottom of a ravine below.
The speed limit in that stretch of the road is 25 mph and a sign posted about half a mile from the wreck warns of curves ahead.
Clallam County Fire District 2 officials said they found Larsen dead on their arrival. Firefighters back-boarded him out of the wooded area down the embankment. Beebe was transported to Olympic Memorial Hospital for evaluation. His patrol car was totaled and there was extensive damage to the motorcycle, a 1981 Honda CB650.
Fire officials said the accident was caused by driving too fast. They encourage people to stop, not run, when they are being pursued by law enforcement.
The State Patrol is continuing to investigate the pursuit and is asking any witnesses to call Detective Sgt. Jerry Cooper at 360-805-1192 or Detective Curt Ladines at 360-805-1160.
Winger said the State Patrol has a comprehensive pursuit policy that requires officers take a variety of factors into consideration when deciding whether or not to pursue a fleeing subject.
Factors include weather, road conditions, if there are multiple occupants of the fleeing vehicle, knowledge of the area and speeds attained.
“Ultimately, the officer has the discretion to continue or discontinue the pursuit unless he’s overridden by a superior officer,” Winger said.
Troopers do not get in trouble if they decide to discontinue a pursuit, he said.
The investigation will determine what happened during the pursuit and whether Beebe followed the policy, Winger said.
In 2011, Beebe was named District 8 Trooper of the Year for 2010.
“He’s an accomplished trooper,” Winger said. “In order to get that award you have to be a high-performing trooper, have good work ethics and that trooper is selected out of a lot of troopers. It’s a prestigious award. We don’t give it to someone who is mediocre.”