High-speed pursuit led to yesterday’s Portal Way roundabout car fire

view of backup at portal way roundabout during the evening commute - tight crop 2018-07-25
View of the scene at the Portal Way roundabout following a high-speed pursuit from the US-Canada border (July 25, 2018). Photo courtesy of MFN reader

Yesterday’s traffic problems at the Portal Way roundabout about 5:30pm was initially reported as a car fire in a story published yesterday. Information received today revealed the incident was actually the end of a high-speed pursuit that began at the US-Canada border.

According to Washington State Patrol (WSP) Trooper Heather Axtman, WSP were advised by US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials that a vehicle failed to stop at the Peace Arch border crossing and they were in pursuit on southbound I-5. A WSP trooper joined the pursuit as the vehicle continued to lead the chase at a high rate of speed.

The vehicle exited I-5 at the Portal Way interchange. According to witnesses at the scene, the vehicle appeared to become disabled in the roundabout and began smoking. A female driver was seen being taken into custody by WSP.

Whatcom County Fire District 7 personnel were dispatched to the scene for a report of a car fire.

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A CBP helicopter involved in the pursuit could also be seen hovering overhead and traffic began backing up as the sequence of events unfolded during the evening commute.

Axtman said the driver was taken back to the border crossing station and processed for entry into the US. She was then released back into custody and booked into the Whatcom County Jail.

According to jail records, the driver, Anna M Vasquez, age 54, was charged with suspicion of 3rd degree driving while her license was suspended, reckless driving and attempting to elude police vehicles.

As of noon today, Vasquez remained in custody in the Whatcom County Jail pending a scheduled preliminary appearance in court this afternoon.

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