In a tragic coincidence, two crashes that have left three people dead and at least nine others injured in Philadelphia since the start of the year were preceded by car chases that began in Delaware and made their way up I-95.
And in a third scary case during the same period, police chased a naked man driving the wrong way on I-95 from Wilmington to Philadelphia International Airport before stopping him.
The crash that left three dead occurred on Packer Avenue in the early hours of Jan. 2, when a car driven by Keith Campbell, 29, of Newport. Del., slammed into an SUV with four people returning from a party after the Mummers parade, according to police. Campbell crossed the line and slammed head-on into the other vehicle after repeatedly stabbing himself.
Killed were Joseph Ferry, 36, of South Philadelphia, the driver of the SUV; Kelly Wiseley, 35, of Glenolden; and Dennis Palandro, 31, of Morton, police said. Palandro’s 30-year-old wife, Nicole, was critically injured in the crash. Joseph Ferry and Dennis Palandro were both members of the South Philadelphia String Band and had marched hours earlier in the New Year’s Day parade.
Campbell had fled police in Newport, Del., for reasons that still are not clear, making his way up I-95 before reaching Packer Avenue.
A law enforcement source said the pursuit in Delaware reached speeds approaching 100 mph and was terminated at the state line with Pennsylvania, about 10 minutes before the crash in South Philadelphia.
Campbell, who is recovering from his stab wounds, has been charged with three counts of homicide by vehicle and other offenses.
On Wednesday morning, an attempt by Wilmington police to pull over a car with a man wanted for probation violations led to another chase that went up I-95 and resulted in crashes that left eight people, including three officers, injured and sparked a massive manhunt in South Philadelphia.
With Wilmington police and Pennsylvania State Police in pursuit, the suspect, identified as Dujuan Robinson, 20, triggered a chain-reaction crash by ramming a vehicle near Philadelphia International Airport, officials said. A Pennsylvania State trooper and two Wilmington officers were injured, as were four members of a family from Baltimore in a Sebring convertible, including a 3-year-old boy who, according to his mother, was in critical condition.
Robinson then sped over the Girard Point Bridge and got off the interstate in South Philadelphia, where, police said, he crashed into a SEPTA bus at Broad Street and Oregon Avenue before bolting on foot. One passenger on the bus suffered minor injuries.
With Philadelphia police reporting that Robinson was a “person of interest” in two homicides in Delaware and likely carrying a gun, heavily armed officers fanned out through South Philadelphia looking for him Wednesday afternoon. He remained at large Thursday.
While the chase of Campbell that preceded to the fatal crash ended at the state line, the one after Robinson was a bi-state pursuit.
Ryan Tarkowski, a Pennsylvania State Police spokesperson, said the department has guidelines on pursuing suspects.
“Safety of the general public, troopers, and suspects is our top priority when it comes to the decision whether or not to pursue a fleeing suspect," he said in an emailed statement. “A trooper will pursue a suspect when the risks posed by allowing the suspect to remain at large outweigh the risks of the pursuit. Some things troopers take into consideration are: the nature of the crime committed, amount of vehicle/pedestrian traffic in an area, weather conditions, etc.”
In another chase Wednesday night, police arrested a naked man who had been driving the wrong way on I-95 with police in pursuit from Wilmington to just south of Philadelphia International Airport, authorities said.
Police used a spike strip to stop the car, the Associated Press reported, but Delaware State Police said the car hit a Pennsylvania State Police vehicle.
Kyle Merena, 29, of Harrisburg, was taken to a hospital for evaluation, police said.
He faces charges of reckless endangerment and other offenses in both states.