TRAILL COUNTY, N.D. — Some questioned why three Grand Forks County sheriff's deputies continued chasing a car into a construction zone on Interstate 29 near Hillsboro, N.D., where there is head-to-head traffic because of road work.
Sheriff Andy Schneider released dashcam video Wednesday, June 16, to illustrate why the chase continued through the construction zone.
The chase started just after 11 a.m. May 19, when a sheriff's deputy tried to pull over a 2005 Pontiac Grand Prix near Thompson, N.D. It had been reported stolen from a Grand Forks gas station 15 minutes earlier.
The chase topped 100 mph over the next 25 miles. Deputies did not know who was behind the wheel at the time. The driver was later identified as 31-year-old Randy Cole.
Just north of Hillsboro, police blew out the front two tires of the car, slowing it down.
That's when the chase took a dramatic turn.
For about 15 seconds, the video shows a woman, identified as 24-year-old Elena Fladeland, hanging out of the passenger door as the car entered the construction zone.
At that point, the car was traveling 70 mph, just over the posted 65 mph speed limit in the construction zone. The sheriff's office pointed out that it appeared Cole was in clear control of the car while on the rims. No other cars are seen in the southbound lane.
The sheriff also pointed out the main reason deputies stayed behind the car: the woman opened the door a second time. Deputies were not sure if Fladeland was kidnapped or being held against her will. She closed the door again as the car passed a semi that had pulled over.
About a minute later, the car slowly veered between the centerline construction markers and slammed head-on into a semi.
Cole died on impact.
Fladeland survived, and her family says she is still recovering.
The North Dakota Highway Patrol is still working to determine whether Cole lost control of the car or he hit the semi on purpose.
Grand Forks police said Fladeland was not in the car when Cole stole it, and it's unclear when she got in.