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Austin, MN (KROC-AM News) - An attempt by an Austin police officer to make a traffic stop early Sunday morning led to a fiery crash and the arrest of an Austin man.

Austin Police Chief David McKichan says the chain of events began around 3:20 Sunday morning when the officer attempted to pull over a pickup truck for traffic violations and the driver sped away at more than 50 mph in a 30 mph zone and then accelerated above 70 mph. At that point, the officer called off the pursuit for safety reasons.

Despite the officer turning off his flashing lights and sirens, Chief McKichan says the driver continued to flee at a high rate of speed and nearly smashed into an SUV before he lost control in an area near Banfield Elementary School. The pickup then went into the ditch and crashed into a tree in a collision that sheared off most of the rear of the truck, which then burst into flames.

Austin Police Dept.
Austin Police Dept.

The Austin police officers at the scene initially could not see anyone inside the burning vehicle and looked around to see if he might have been injected in the crash. The police chief says the flames then began to subside a bit and the officers spotted the driver facedown under a passenger-side dashboard and were able to pull him from the burning pickup.

McKichan says 23-year-old Melchor Barnabas was taken to the Mayo Clinic Health System Hospital in Austin for treatment. A sample of his blood was also obtained through a search warrant and Barnabas was taken into custody this morning and his home after his discharge from the hospital. A news release on the incident says it remains under investigation and charges are pending.

The Austin Police Chief also noted a fiery crash was just one of seven suspected DUI cases handled by his department between 11 PM on Friday and early Sunday morning.

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