A high speed chase which began on Santa Barbara’s stretch of northbound Highway 101 ended along Highway 154 near Windy Gap in a fiery crash Thursday evening. The driver of the car, Ventura resident Sara Cornejo, was uninjured, while CHP officer Brian Barriga injured his ankle removing Cornejo from her 1995 Nissan 240 Coupe, according to CHP Officer Don Clotworthy.
The chase began when two officers in a patrol car observed Cornejo’s vehicle traveling north “at a high rate of speed” just north of Carrillo Street. The driver failed to yield to the CHP’s lights and led authorities on a chase which reached speeds of 90 miles per hour.
The chase continued on Highway 154, with the cars still traveling more than 90 miles per hour. The Nissan eventually turned into a private driveway, hitting a gate and fencepost. After roughly a quarter-mile, the driver lost control and ran off the road where the car ignited. “Due to the extreme temperature of the Nissan’s undercarriage, [the Nissan] immediately caught fire,” Clotworthy said. Barriga “exited the patrol car and ran up to the Nissan, removing Ms. Cornejo from the Nissan moments before it became fully engulfed in flames.”
Authorities placed Cornejo in custody and, after verifying her identity, found she was considered potentially suicidal. She was taken by ambulance to the Santa Barbara County Mental Health Department for evaluation and treatment.